World Football

How James Rodriguez Compares to Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid Stars

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JULY 04:  James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's first goal on a penalty kick during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between Brazil and Colombia at Castelao on July 4, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

James Rodriguez is set to complete a bumper £60 million move to Real Madrid this week, reported by Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail:

Rodriguez was in Spain on Sunday on his way back from Colombia to Monaco, where he will say his goodbye to the club this week before returning to the Spanish capital to sign a new six-year deal.

The Colombian World Cup star—who finished the Brazilian tournament as top scorer with Los Cafeteros—will head to the Bernabeu under great pressure. He is set to challenge for a place in the first team alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Jese Rodriguez, three players who should be earmarked as his most likely competitors.

How, then, does the 23-year-old compare to his likely team-mates? Rodriguez's debut season with Monaco was impressive due to his quick adaptability at the mega-rich club, where he produced quality numbers across a number of roles. He is able to play on either flank or through the middle and supports strikers with incisive runs both on and off the ball.

At Real Madrid, Rodriguez will be expected to perform consistently, especially when it comes to attacking production. Let's take a look at how his 2013-14 numbers compared to Ronaldo et al., with stats produced via WhoScored.com:

Rodriguez vs. Real Madrid Stars: Attacking Stats Comparison
PlayerApps.GoalsAssistsShotsDribblesOffsideTackledTurnovers
James Rodriguez30 (4)9122.61.30.41.61.5
Cristiano Ronaldo303197.22.21.51.41.2
Gareth Bale24 (3)15123.32.10.411.1
Jese Rodriguez4 (14)541.20.500.80.4
2013-14 domestic season, per WhoScored.com.

As with most players, Rodriguez's stats don't match up to those of Ronaldo. Even so, he scored every 3.78 games on average last term, producing an assist every 2.83 matches. Ronaldo's stats come in at 0.97 and 3.33 respectively, with Rodriguez's challenging those of Bale (1.8 per goal, 2.25 per assist) and Jese (3.6, 4.5).

Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

Rodriguez is narrowly the least efficient goalscorer, but Jese's lack of games after sustaining serious injury may have positively influenced the young Spaniard's averages. Jese completed 90 minutes just twice last season but will be mightily happy with his ability to affect matches.

He scored in three consecutive La Liga fixtures during February, while James' best goalscoring string came across two matches at two points of the season (failing to record his current six-game run with Colombia).

In comparison, Ronaldo trumps all yet again with goals in eight consecutive La Liga games between March and May, with Bale posting his best stretch across three.

Rodriguez was also tackled most often and gave the ball away most frequently, but there are tiny margins between the stats posted. Aside from Ronaldo's more impressive match-defining antics, all have the ability to produce some kind of telling moment every couple of appearances.

Of course, James' arrival is likely to see Madrid's defensive numbers sapped somewhat, as tweeted by Tre Atkinson of Inside Spanish Football and detailed here:

He will need to work hard when tracking back and offering full-backs cover. As recorded by WhoScored.com, this may be where Rodriguez's work rate shines through:

Rodriguez vs. Real Madrid Stars: Defensive Stats Comparison
PlayerTackles per matchInterceptionsFoulsClearancesWas Dribbled
James Rodriguez1.10.70.80.10.9
Cristiano Ronaldo0.60.10.70.40.2
Gareth Bale0.90.70.70.30.1
Jese Rodriguez0.60.30.30.10.4
2013-14 domestic season, per WhoScored.com.

Rodriguez is the only star from this list to secure more than one tackle per match, while he also leads the way when it comes to interceptions. He clears the ball just once every 10 matches and is the most prone to making fouls, but the Colombian also faced more opportunities to make such mistakes last season.

LILLE, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 03:  James David Rodriguez Rubio of Monaco (C) and Soualiho Meite of Lille (R) battle for the ball during the French Ligue 1 match between OSC Lille and AS Monaco at the Grand Stade Metropole Villeneuve-d'Ascq on November 3, 2013
Harry Engels/Getty Images

The starlet's energy really pushed his game on at the World Cup. Rodriguez's willingness to take control of possession and immediately burst into direct offence propelled Colombia's play, but this is something he has consistently showed at both Porto and Monaco. It's this natural zest—the instinct to attack with speed and control—that makes him an exciting proposition for Los Blancos.

Indeed, Monaco vice-chairman Vadim Vasilyev outlined the transfer as "one of the most significant" to grace the game, per BBC Sport.

The aforementioned stats highlight an individual who can slot right into Carlo Ancelotti's plans, but also someone who must strive to improve if he is to ever be considered the team's main star. Ronaldo's stats are almost unfair to analyse at this stage in each player's career, but the Portuguese icon currently offers the marker with which every prospective Real star will be compared.

It is highly unlikely Rodriguez will ever surpass this brilliance, but vitally, the European Champions look set to acquire a hardworking team player who can contribute across all areas of the pitch.

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