Zinedine Zidane’s patience is already reportedly running out with Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez, with the Colombia star said to be facing a battle to convince the new manager he can be a regular first-team player.
Alejandro Alcazar of Sport provided the report on Thursday and noted that Zidane "doesn’t even want to see a painting of James Rodriguez."
In the piece, Alcazar wrote the Frenchman has "realised James is not in condition to be an important player at Madrid," and even though every player is getting a fresh start under the new manager, "he’s beginning to feel as though he is fighting a losing battle with James."
According to Pablo Polo of Marca, with the attacking trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo all secured of their places, Zidane will find himself with a straight choice between Isco and Rodriguez. Polo claims the latter will get a chance to impress in the match against Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
This season has been a tough one for the Colombia star after shining in his debut term. Here’s a reminder of what a full-tilt Rodriguez can produce:
As noted by Ben Hayward of Goal.com, although Zidane has only been in charge for one game, he seems to be making decisive choices already in the managerial hot seat:
Zidane picks Isco and leaves James on bench, just as Benítez did in August. Also leaves Danilo out, something Rafa should've done long ago.— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) January 9, 2016
Rodriguez is the star player most likely under threat at the moment, especially with Alcazar claiming the attacker is currently "above his ideal weight"; his fondness for the Madrid nightlife and fast cars is also noted.
According to Fernando Baquero of Sport, Zidane was "shocked" by the fitness levels of the Real Madrid players, feeling as though they should be in much better shape at this point of the season. Again, Rodriguez is mentioned, with Baquero claiming he and Toni Kroos are the two players in the least desirable condition.
If Rodriguez is going to force his way into Zidane’s plans on a regular basis, then he must improve his form. While three goals and four assists in 10 La Liga appearances is not a bad return, the languid style in which Rodriguez operates has deteriorated to a slack approach; it was no surprise, therefore, when Isco was thrust into the team.
Aside from basic goals and assists—Isco has one and three, respectively—here’s how Real Madrid’s two creative stars fare in direct statistical comparison this season in La Liga:
|Appearances (Sub)||7 (3)||10 (4)|
|Shots per game||1.5||1.5|
|Dribbles per game||0.7||1.4|
|Passes per game||46||34.8|
|Key passes per game||3||1.7|
|Passing accuracy||87.4 %||89.3 %|
Which player should Zidane be utilising?
It’s such an important position for Real. The likes of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo carry the ball forward, thriving with space to burst into. But the antidote for breaking down well-organised sides is often an intricate midfielder who can find pockets and thread passes, qualities that Rodriguez has in abundance at his best.
Playing for a team like Real and a manager who was the finest attacking midfielder of his generation should be enough to galvanise Rodriguez out of his lull. Otherwise, it’s becoming increasingly apparent, as is the case at the majority of elite sides, a quality deputy will be ready to fill the position.