For the second time in as many matches, Zidane left the Colombian on the bench for Real, preferring to use Isco as the team’s creator-in-chief instead. According to a report from Marca, Rodriguez's reluctance to warm up after half-time did not impress the Frenchman:
The French coach told the Colombian to go and warm up along with Jese when Bale was injured during the final minutes of the first half. Both of them continued their warm-up during the interval, but Jese ended up getting the nod.
To the disbelief of Zidane, James sat back down on the bench when the second half kicked off. After making his disdain clear, the manager once again told James to go and warm up, before bringing him on to replace Isco on 60 minutes.
As noted in the piece, the Cuatro cameras seemed to catch the exchange between Zidane and Rodriguez, with the manager noticeably unhappy that the player was sitting in the dugout.
The attitude of the player has been questioned by reputable Colombian journalist Ivan Mejia, who revealed there are concerns about his form in the Real hierarchy.
"He’s in a footballing decline, he’s not playing well," said Mejia on Colombian radio, per Ed Malyon of the Daily Mirror. "The Madrid board are worried because he’s not that same James that arrived after the World Cup. He’s racing his car, he’s going out at night, he’s making appearances in Qatar…He’s lost all sense of perspective and isn’t training well."
Previously, it was been reported by Alejandro Alcazar of Sport that Zidane was losing patience with Rodriguez’s outlook in the opening stages of his tenure. Fernando Baquero of Sport also claimed that the fitness of the Colombia playmaker and team-mate Toni Kroos had left the new manager disappointed.
As noted by Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe, while James sat on the bench, Isco, who has typically played second fiddle to Rodriguez over the last 18 months, turned in an impressive performance:
Isco gets 60 minutes. Some lovely slick touches and a divine assist for Benzema in 1H. The Isco we know and love. #RealMadrid— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) January 17, 2016
It’s clear all is not well between Zidane and Rodriguez at the moment despite the player's obvious talent. The Colombian excelled in his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu under Carlo Ancelotti and has been injured for long spells of the current term. However, it appears as though the midfielder faces a fight to get back in the starting XI.
Here’s what Rodriguez is capable of producing at his best and why Zidane will be keen to see him rediscover his top form soon:
Which player should be starting?
Isco has waited patiently for a regular chance in the team, and under Zidane, he seems keen to take it. With Gareth Bale hobbling off at half-time against Gijon, Rodriguez could well get his shot and will need to be ready to impress.
Given the quality of attacking player available to Zidane, it’s imperative Rodriguez makes an impression.
Upsetting the manager with a bad attitude on the bench will do little to curry favour, though. At a time when all the players in the Real squad will be doing their utmost to impress the new manager, Rodriguez seems to be taking a different approach.
Of course, it’s natural for a player of his calibre to be unhappy on the bench, but he must show a hunger to win his place back.