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James Rodriguez Can Succeed as Real Madrid No.10 Where Isco, Ozil Struggled

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Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2017

Real Madrid have completed their second high-profile signing of the past week with the news that AS Monaco attacking midfielder James Rodriguez has officially completed his move.

The Colombian World Cup star has moved for €75 million, according to J.I. Garcia-Ochoa of Marca.

He will join Real Madrid in the pre-season as the side looks to defend their Champions League title in the 2014-15 campaign, in addition to embarking on a renewed assault on La Liga after winning the title just once in the past six seasons.

Rodriguez isn't the first big-name No. 10 to play for Real Madrid in the last few years, but he does have the capacity to make the biggest impact.

James Rodríguez officially a Real Madrid player! pic.twitter.com/KPlYmU7HqY

— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) July 22, 2014

 

10, James

For those who didn't see Rodriguez over the second half of last season at Monaco in Ligue 1, the 2014 World Cup gave a good indication of his top level of play in the central, attacking-midfield role.

Having also played from the flank earlier in his career—and indeed once with Colombia to accommodate the talented Juan Quintero in Brazil this summer—he certainly appears a more complete and effective player through the centre, where Real will look to get the best out of him.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28:  James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at Maracana on June 28, 2014 in Rio de
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Exceptional acceleration when he dribbles the ball initially gives him a big advantage in one-on-one situations, while his ability to go either way is also important.

Rodriguez likes to receive the ball quickly after transitions, enabling him to attack before defences reorganise and the midfield becomes cluttered. His sharp passing and willingness to drive into spaces in and out of possession can create overloads down the channels.

He'll also be expected to contribute heavily to the goal count next season, comfortably surpassing the nine league strikes he managed for Monaco last term.

 

Ozil, Isco

Nobody could suggest that Mesut Ozil "failed" at Real Madrid, and yet they were happy enough to sell him when the opportunity arose. While a terrific technical player with above-average creativity and vision, Ozil has shown over the course of several years that he requires considerable movement around him, allowing him to play his passes.

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - JULY 27:  Mesut Oezil (C) of Real Madrid and Christophe Jalle (R) and Maxwell (L) of PSG battle for the ball during the pre season friendly match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at Ullevi on July 27, 2013 in Gothenburg, Sw
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Making runs beyond the front man and troubling the defence to find himself in a scoring position are not part of his game.

Real Madrid, as good as the team has been for years in Spanish football, don't have a genuinely world-class No. 9 in the mould of Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy or other top names who have carried the goalscoring burden themselves.

Tactically, Karim Benzema is vital for Real. He allows the attacking midfielders to thrive, but they do require additional goals from the second attacking line.

Ozil didn't offer that. James Rodriguez will.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Isco of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring their third goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Elche CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Isco offers goals and is a direct threat to run beyond the striker and wreak havoc on the defensive line, but he's still a step behind the quality of his attacking-midfield team-mates, and Real appear to be too impatient to give him a chance to develop, despite him being the new project just a year ago.

Rodriguez is hot, ready and can be consistent in front of goal and in creative terms.

 

A Modric-Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle

Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Benzema, Rodriguez, Gareth Bale—those are the Real Madrid shirt Nos. 7 to 11 for this season. A fearsome quintet of options, no doubt, but they leave question marks over the centre of midfield.

MADRID, SPAIN - JULY 17:  . Toni Kroos with the ball in his new Real Madrid shirt during his official unveiling at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on July 17, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Toni Kroos who won the World Cup with Germany in Brazil is Real Madrid's first
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Presuming Real revert to type with the 4-2-3-1 formation they used during the first half of last season, Rodriguez will see Bale and Ronaldo on either side of him more often than not, with Benzema as the No. 9.

Kroos will then presumably play the deeper creative threat, but alongside who? Angel Di Maria was superb last season after switching back into the centre of midfield, but he has been rumoured to be on his way out, per Jamie Anderson of the Daily Express. James Dickenson, also for the Daily Express (h/t L'Equipe), reports that Sami Khedira faces similar uncertainty, while Casemiro has already left for Porto.

That leaves Xabi Alonso and Asier Illarramendi as defensive-midfield options with which to partner Kroos, but completely ignores La Liga's best midfielder last season, Luka Modric.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Dropping into a central-midfield role alongside Di Maria, he was instrumental to their Champions League success and many of their improved performances domestically.

It seems unthinkable that they could omit him now from the regular XI—but pairing Kroos and Modric does not seem to offer enough defensive stability, unless both are extremely committed to a rotating pivot and diligently pursue their off-the-ball duties.

It's a puzzle for Carlo Ancelotti to worry about once the season starts, but for now, he can begin integrating Rodriguez into the attacking section of the team.

Supplied by the likes of Kroos or Modric with Ronaldo and Co. to play off going forward, it seems unthinkable that the talented Colombian youngster won't be a big hit in Spain.

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