Can Carlo finally solve the Rodriguez riddle? James’ bond with Ancelotti means that if anyone can end his bizarre slump from the kid with the world at his feet to washed-up Real Madrid outcast, then it’s his new Everton manager
- Everton have confirmed the £20m signing of James Rodriguez from Real Madrid
- The star earned a £71m move to Madrid in 2014 after his stunning World Cup
- However, since then inconsistent form and injuries have plagued the Colombian
- As Rodriguez begins his third spell under Ancelotti, it’s time for a re-birth
It’s now or never for James Rodriguez’s world-beating potential. At their third club together, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti believes he can finally rediscover Colombia’s lost superstar.
From the dink against Japan to the volleyed thunderbolt past Uruguay – the whirling white socks of Rodriguez are a defining memory of Brazil’s World Cup.
That was 2014, though, and most viewers dazzled by Rodriguez six years ago have long lost faith in his rise to the top. But not Ancelotti.
Everton have sealed the signing of Real Madrid struggler James Rodriguez for £20m
Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti was the key reason for the move, after they bonded at Real
Ancelotti was the last man to truly unlock Rodriguez, and since the star has fallen from grace
The Italian coach guided the then 23-year-old to thrive in his first season at Real Madrid, seeing the midfielder shake off his £71million price-tag after first striding onto the Bernabeu pitch for an obligatory Galactico keepy-up session.
Rodriguez responded to his methods with 17 goals and 18 assists in his debut season, as the pair forged a lasting bond that was the key in the talent’s shock Premier League move.
Ancelotti shifted Rodriguez all over the pitch, from left wing to right, from a deeper playmaking position to his natural forward-thinking midfield role. The Colombian delivered wherever he went.
‘He is a hugely talented player and he also possesses a durable physique not often found in great talents. He is having an extremely good season,’ Ancelotti gushed.
Rodriguez’s stunning performances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil earned his big move
The star burst into life at Madrid in his first season under Ancelotti before it all went wrong
Then Madrid chairman Florentino Perez took Carlo away, and the Colombian would never hit double figures in Spain again. Thick fog descended on his once clear path to the top.
‘There is no problem,’ new Madrid boss Rafa Benitez said in December 2015 after being challenged on the strength of his relationship with Rodriguez while the midfielder’s career rapidly unravelled in the background.
The Spaniard was kicked out a month later, but Zinedine Zidane’s appointment was even worse news.
Reported to be losing patience with Rodriguez despite having barely begun at Real, Zidane’s tenure took the star to just 17 LaLiga starts in 2015-16. The decline continued the next year, just 13 starts.
Zinedine Zidane (right) was among Rodriguez’s managers who could not get the best of him
Rodriguez somehow went from world-beating star to a forgotten man at the Bernabeu
By May 2017 the Cucuta-born talent was the shining example of a disillusioned, downbeat star trapped within his own club, with no opportunity nor way out. Gareth Bale should have taken note.
Then Ancelotti made a rescue attempt. On June 30 Rodriguez was signed by Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal with an option to buy in 2019. A fresh start under his favourite coach.
But on September 28 Ancelotti was sacked. Rodriguez managed just five games for the Italian.
Rodriguez and Ancelotti linked-up again at Bayern Munich before the Italian was sacked
The final three years of Rodriguez’s Madrid nightmare followed the trend: inconsistency, injuries and inspiring flashes of natural talent. Bayern decided against a permanent deal and jetted the Colombian back to Madrid for his worst season yet – scoring once, assisting once and starting only five league matches.
From the world’s hottest prospect to a cast-off in just six years. Now, Ancelotti’s second rescue mission looks a lot more promising.
The Italian wanted to sign Rodriguez for a third time last summer, saying on TV Luna while coaching Napoli: ‘He is a player that I really like. I’m very attached to James, I rate him very highly.’
Tellingly, unlike the five other managers the now 29-year-old has linked-up with since, Ancelotti revealed he has never stopped believing in Rodriguez: ‘He doesn’t need to re-announce himself, he’s a great player.’
Ancelotti has huge plans at Goodison Park, aiming for Champions League with his side
Rodriguez will be linking up with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison in an exciting trio
Rodriguez has only added to the Blues’ hope for 2020-21, with the city of Liverpool and even Bogota lighting up monuments in honour of the new No 19’s arrival.
The prospect of the Colombian in full flight alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison – with fellow new boys Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield – is enough to set-off any Evertonian’s imagination.
The £20m signing of Rodriguez on a two-year deal does present risks for Everton. His relentless injuries never did subside and he faces the challenge of adapting to the physicality of English football after a long stint of reduced game-time.
But if anyone can engineer the re-birth of James Rodriguez, it’s Carlo Ancelotti.
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