Man United target James shows he can still make a difference at Madrid

COMMENT

James Rodriguez has been here before. The attacking midfielder enjoyed a superb first season in Spain, after arriving in an €80 million deal from Monaco in the summer of 2014, but he has been fighting for his future at Real Madrid ever since.

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The Colombian featured prominently in that debut campaign under Carlo Ancelotti, but found life more difficult in his second year, as Rafa Benitez was constantly asked why he was not picking the popular South American.

However, it was not only Benitez who doubted James because when the Spaniard was sacked, Zinedine Zidane adopted a similar stance. The South American was used by the French coach, but usually only when other players were out injured or when he wanted to rotate.

In his press conferences, Zidane always claimed James remained an important player, yet his answers were never quite as convincing as they could have been and he also admitted: "If he doesn't play, the club will have a problem."

Marcelo Lucas Vazquez Isco Alarcon Deportivo Coruna Real Madrid LaLiga 26042017

James has been frustrated at his lack of playing time and has spoken of his disappointment when linking up with his international team for World Cup qualifying matches. After Madrid's Club World Cup win in December, he also admitted his future was up in the air.

James wants Real Madrid stay, his wife says

His team-mates and senior figures at the club were unhappy he had used what should have been a moment of celebration to send a message about his future, yet his disappointment is understandable.

Wanted by a number of Europe's elite clubs - Manchester United among them - James will have options if he decides to leave Madrid in the summer. However, he has always said he is keen to triumph at Real and that Zidane was his idol when he was younger.

"James is very focused; it is a very personal decision," his wife Daniela Ospina said this week. "He is happy, but when he has to make the decision, he will do so.

"I cannot promise anything, but James wants to continue with Real Madrid and I love Madrid too. I am really happy in Spain and I want to stay here."

Isco Alarcon Deportivo Coruna Real Madrid LaLiga 26042017
James Rodriguez Deportivo Coruna Real Madrid LaLiga 26042017

As recently as a few days ago, that seemed fairly unlikely. But twice since then, James has shown that he can still make the difference for Real Madrid - despite his reduced role over the past two seasons.

The Colombian came on for Madrid in the Clasico against Barcelona on Sunday and hit a late leveller which looked like earning Los Blancos a point until Lionel Messi's winner in added time. And on Wednesday, he scored twice in an impressive 6-2 win at Deportivo La Coruna.

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With Cristiano Ronaldo rested and Gareth Bale out injured, Isco shone once again as Madrid's second string made light work of a potentially tricky fixture in the Primera Division to stay level on points with Barca at the top of the table (and with a game in hand over the Blaugrana as well).

James played his part in that with some neat link-up play and two well-taken goals that prove he is not ready to give up on his Madrid future just yet. Indeed, it is worth noting that no other Liga midfielder has been involved in more goals in all competitions this season than the ex-Porto man (nine goals and 12 assists).

He is clearly still a very useful man for Madrid to have around and, after his Depor double, he will now be hopeful of playing a more significant role in first-team affairs between now and the remainder of this season.

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