Zinedine Zidane has downplayed reported issues with attacking midfielder James Rodriguez. The Real Madrid manager insisted the Colombian star is working hard, despite recent claims his unwillingness to warm up during a league match angered Zidane.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of Los Blancos' game with Real Betis, Zidane stressed Rodriguez has been working hard in training, according to Spanish publication AS: “James had a great week. I’m happy with what he’s doing. He’s working incredibly hard, like the other players. He’s ready to play."
Zidane also stated he's not singling Rodriguez out above other players at the club, and he confirmed his plans to get Rodriguez back to his best: "I’m not paying him more attention than the other players. I don’t get the feeling he’s worried, he’s told me he’s relaxed about things. He wants to do well, like the rest. The plan is to have him firing on all cylinders."
Zidane's words refuted rumours about disharmony with the former Porto ace. The player reportedly angered his manager when he was slow to warm up after being told to get ready to come on as a substitute against Sporting Gijon, per images from Spanish TV station La Sexta (h/t AS).
Jose Manuel Garcia of Spanish source El Confidencial (h/t Metro's George Bellshaw) reported Madrid even spoke with the player's agent, Jorge Mendes, warning they are prepared to sell the 24-year-old if his form and temperament don't improve.
That was seen as potential encouragement for Premier League side Manchester United. The Red Devils were linked with a £64.7 million bid for the creative playmaker, according to Spanish website Fichajes.net (h/t Metro's Mark Brus).
While his attitude may be questioned, few can complain about Rodriguez's natural ability. He's scored three goals and supplied four assists in La Liga, per WhoScored.com.
At his best, Rodriguez is a match-winner Zidane can build a more fluid forward line around. His latest comments indicate the Frenchman hasn't given up on the mercurial attacker just yet.