Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has admitted his team must improve their fitness in the weeks ahead after Los Blancos thrashed Sporting Gijon 5-1 at the Bernabeu in La Liga on Sunday.
The Galactico coach was frank in his assessments as his team blew away their opponents for a second league match running, as quoted by David G. Madina of Marca:
There's always room for improvement, but the first half was spectacular, with good football and a great work rate. We can improve and we're going to.
We have a lot to improve on in terms of our fitness. What we want is to win games and, above all else, be in good shape towards the end of the campaign when everything is decided.
We have to improve our fitness. We have two weeks to work on that and it's enough time. Once that improves, we'll also get better with the ball out on the pitch.
The Frenchman also commented on the omission of Colombian star James Rodriguez, with Isco picked ahead of the attacking midfielder against Sporting.
Zidane said he has had difficulty selecting his best XI at present, and he hinted there will be further opportunity for James in the near future, per Madina:
We're all in the same boat here. Someone or other is going to play. Isco played today and then James came on for him. It's difficult. The thing I find difficult is naming the team the day before the game, but it's my responsibility. I have to make decisions. Everyone wants to play, but I understand that. What's important is the team, the squad.
Recent speculation has suggested the new coach does not favour the talented South American attacker, with Alejandro Alcazar of Sport saying Zidane "doesn’t even want to see a painting of James Rodriguez."
Alcazar continued that the Colombian is not in the correct condition to be "important" for the first team, leading to doubts about his future in the Spanish capital.
According to Pablo Polo of Marca, Zidane will run the rule over James and Isco, and decide which player will supplement his options, with Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo untouchable in selection when fit at present.
Here is a video showing what James is capable of in a Madrid shirt:
As Barcelona find solace in their MSN trinity of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Zidane is focusing on his BBC trio of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano. There is little room for a player of James' skill set, and his time at the Bernabeu might be over.
Ben Hayward of Goal.com highlighted how Zidane's immediate decision on James reflects that of former boss Rafael Benitez:
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
James has not suddenly become a bad player overnight, but the demands at Real always dictate individuals move in and out of the squad, with the exit door constantly revolving.
Is James' Madrid career over?
The performance value of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo will be a permanent obstruction to the Colombian, who needs regular football to prove his worth.
A place on the bench will not be desirable for a marquee player of James' quality, but with Madrid's transfer ban hanging over the team's head, per BBC Sport, it could mean the forward will be forced to sit tight under the Zidane regime.
As Real plunder the goals—returning to their pre-Benitez mandate—James could cut a frustrated figure at the Bernabeu for the rest of the campaign.