One great thing about the World Cup is that every four years, a handful of players nobody’s ever heard of will all of a sudden do some incredible things, and a new global superstar will be born. A few guys, like Joel Campbell of Costa Rica, Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa of Mexico and Jermaine Jones of the USMNT, have broken out so far in this World Cup, but their performances pale in comparison to a 22-year old striker from Cúcuta, Colombia. James Rodríguez has arrived on the world stage, so let’s get to know him.
First things first, let’s talk about the pronunciation of his first name. I know most of you probably read that as James, like the english name that can be shortened to Jim, but you’d be wrong if you called this young man by that name. His name is pronounced HAHM-ess. Write it down, because you’re not going to want to forget it.
James started playing his club team ball with Envigado FC, where he also played his youth ball, but was quickly noticed and signed by Club Atlético Banfield of the Argentine first division in 2008. In 2009, with James as a regular player, Banfield won the Argentine league title for the first time in its history. In 2010, he began crafting his reputation with a goal for Banfield in the Copa Libertadores, and earned himself the nickname of the “James Bond of Banfield” Eventually, Banfield sold high on their young prospect, sending 70% of his transfer rights to FC Porto of the Portuguese Liga Sagres for a fee of €5.1 million.
“The James Bond of Banfield”:
In his second year with Porto, at just 20 years of age, James won the LPFP Award for Breakthrough Player for the 2011-2012 season. He also took home the Portuguese Golden Ball for 2012, as the best player in the Portuguese League. In May of 2013, he was transferred to AS Monaco of the Frenche Ligue 1 for €45 million, the second most expensive transfer in Portuguese fútbol history (Hulk has the honor of being #1 there). James signed a five year deal that will keep him with Monaco until 2018, barring another transfer.
Internationally speaking, James has represented Colombia at three separate levels: the U-17 in 2007, the U-20 squad in 2011 and the senior team since making his debut against Bolivia in October 2011. He scored his first goal during the WC qualifying period against Peru later that year. He has scored 8 goals while wearing the Colombian jersey (10 if you count two friendlies as well), but five of those have come in this World Cup. He scored one against Greece in Colombia’s 3-0 Group Stage win, the only goal against the Ivory Coast in the Group Stage and another against Japan in Colombia’s 4-1 Group Stage win. Against Uruguay, in the round of 16, James scored twice, one of which might be the goal of the tournament, as Colombia won 2-0 and advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time ever.
James Nets the Goal of the Tournament:
His performance in the World Cup so far has earned him plenty of praise from around the world. Uruguayan coach Óscar Tabárez glowed about James after their round of 16 matchup yesterday:
“Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez – they do things because they have certain gifts that make them special. I believe he’s the best player at the World Cup. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. He’s a young player. We tried to limit his influence, but he kept going and made his presence felt. Hopefully he’ll continue to progress, because he’s very young. Football needs players with these characteristics.”a
That’s a pretty good list of names to be included in, right? Tabárez is far from the first to sing James’ praises. Colombian legend, Carlos Valderrama, has said that “for a long time in Colombia, they have been looking for the next Carlos Valderrama, and they’ve now finally found who that player is.”b Valderrama added that James is going to be the next big Colombian star, not just for now, but for the next 10 years.
Alright. I think you guys get the point. To quote the great film Coming to America, “That boy good! He good!” Here’s hoping he can keep the magic going, get Colombia past Brazil in the quarter-finals and then hit the transfer market this summer and make all the money. Rumor has it La Liga might be looking his way. Congratulations, James, and welcome to our lives.
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