James Rodriguez - coming soon to a Theatre of Dreams near you?
James Rodriguez is not exactly new on the scene - the Colombian prodigy actually made his first-team debut for Enivgado in 2006, at the age of 14. Since then, he has starred for Banfield before securing a high-profile transfer to FC Porto, where his burgeoning reputation grows with every passing week.
Left footed, operating mainly on the left of midfield and adept at arriving at the back post to convert his fair share of chances, comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo was inevitable. Rodriguez is not as powerfully built as the Real Madrid forward, but he does not turn 21 until next month and is yet to reach his physical peak. He may lack the same power and pace, he also remains very one-footed but he compensates for this with excellent crossing and set-piece delivery.
Despite a slow start to his career in Portugal, he made started 14 times in Porto’s unbeaten treble-winning campaign under Andre Villas-Boas, but finished the season strongly, scoring a hat-trick in the 6-2 Portuguese Cup Final victory against Vitoria de Guimaraes. Last season, under the stewardship of Vítor Pereira, Rodriguez started the season in explosive fashion, netting five times in his first six games. He eventually lost his place midway through the season after a succession of inconsistent showings, but remained influential coming off the bench and ended the season with an impressive 14 goals in 21 starts.
Colombia have not qualified for a World Cup since the 1998 retirement of the legendary Carlos Valderrama and there is a desperation for Rodriguez, who made his debut in October, to fill the void left by ‘El Pibe’ (The Kid). He has already been labelled ‘El Nuevo Pibe’ (The New Kid) and Valderrama has also given his seal of approval: "Colombia do not need another 'El Pibe', James is doing very well in that position. We have to support him because he is motivated and he needs support as I believe we have some player here."
His current Porto deal has four years remaining and a £45m release clause, but Rodriguez is not short of admirers. Bayern Munich are believed to be interested and Manchester United scouts have been tracking him closely. The Manchester Evening News even reported that the club were considering an approach in May. When the subject was raised in an interview with Colombian newspaper Nuevo Estadio, Rodriguez revealed: "I am only focused on Porto at the moment but I could not reject to play for Manchester United. It would please me." His agent, Silvio Sandri, confirmed the interest and also claimed that another club had already lodged a bid. "Currently there is a concrete offer for the player," Sandri explained to Maisfutebol. "But I do know that United are interested too.”
He is believed to be rated at around £25m and a part-exchange deal including former Porto midfielder Anderson has been previously mooted, but with Hulk likely to depart this summer, they may be reluctant to let both leave. Manchester United have already signed Shinji Kagawa and may prefer for Rodriguez to continue his development in Portugal while they pursue other more pressing targets. But a Cristiano Ronaldo-shaped hole remains at Old Trafford and it would surprise no-one if they return to Portugal to recruit his eventual successor.
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