Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has shot down speculation linking James Rodriguez with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu this summer amid reports that Manchester United are interested in the winger.
Rumours of a Real Madrid exit have followed Rodriguez throughout a troubled season in Spain's capital, but Zidane spoke of his admiration for the player in a press conference on Friday.
According to the Daily Star's Marc Williams, the Frenchman said: "I think James has been treated a bit unfairly. However, the players are well aware that when they play well, they will get lots of nice things said about them. It bothers me when people speak ill of James because he's my player. James is committed to the cause."
Having signed a six-year contract with Los Blancos upon arriving from Monaco following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Rodriguez has a long-term commitment to the club, but that hasn't prevented rumours from escalating in recent months.
Earlier this week, Spanish daily Marca (h/t Metro's Sean Kearns) reported that the "path has been cleared" for Manchester United to complete a £63 million move for the Colombian this summer, but Zidane appears eager to hold on to his star.
Rodriguez suffered an injury at the beginning of this season, which—combined with the level of competition for a place in the team's attack—saw his playing time decline under former boss Rafa Benitez.
Manchester United, meanwhile, are reportedly seeking improvements in attack, and BBC Sport's Andy West identified Rodriguez as one of the few Real players the Premier League giants could actually hope to land:
The Red Devils have been pleased to see last summer's signing Memphis Depay enjoy an upturn in form of late, but manager Louis van Gaal has perhaps grown overreliant on young stars like Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.
Despite playing the full 90 minutes on just four occasions this season and starting just 13 La Liga fixtures, Rodriguez has amassed a fairly impressive return of five goals and six assists in league competition.
Gareth Bale's return from injury may threaten to derail what little progress he's enjoyed under Zidane thus far, and the South American will undoubtedly seek assurances over playing time.
Sergio Gomez of AS wrote, "The Bernabeu has turned against James Rodriguez" and provided quotes from the player's father, Wilson James Rodriguez, who spoke on Caracol Radio about his son's predicament:
This is hard to take as every father wants the best for his son. This is football though and it's not just James who is playing poorly. Dips in form are routine, stakes are very high in the big sides and there is very little room for forgiveness. James is a very professional individual but this is the price of fame. All I can do is be there for him in these difficult times. I'm relaxed about the situation as it will pass.
Depending on how the rest of Real's season pans out, Rodriguez could be seen as a realistic target for Manchester United this summer, but Zidane seemingly won't let the playmaker go without a fight.
A difficult second season in La Liga has seen Rodriguez fall down Real's order, but his manager appears to hold hope of seeing his star recapture the form that earned him an €80 million move to the Bernabeu almost two years ago.