Striker James Rodriguez became Colombia’s first to score in Spain’s soccer classic between his Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on Sunday, just when the “enfant terrible” is trying to convince coach Zinedine Zidane to give him more playtime.
James’ intervention did not prevent Madrid’s 2-3 loss to Barcelona that consequently took over the top position in the Spanish league.
It was, notwithstanding, a major show of force of the 25-year-old Colombian, who has spent almost all his time at Madrid on the bench in spite of repeated public appeals to his coach to let him play.
But Zidane has not been impressed by James’ “lack of discipline” and has so far ignored the Colombian striker.
Had Sunday’s crucial game not gone so terribly wrong, James likely may not have had the honor to play in what some consider one of the world’s most important classics.
Until six minutes before the set end for the game, the Colombian was no option for Barcelona’s coach.
Zidane first sent in replacements Marco Asensio and Mateo Kovacic, and waited until the 84th minute to send in James.
Of course, we have 24 players and I can only pick 11. Sometimes it looks like I always have to make three changes in a game, but I will only do so if I think it is necessary. I am the coach and I have to make decisions.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on ESPN FC
By then, Real Madrid was only six minutes away from an 1-2 home loss against its biggest rival that would additionally make the team from the capital lose its top position in the league to Barcelona.
Just one minute after entering the pitch, James cleverly shot the ball in the net of the opponent, and his team at 2-2.
With that score, Madrid would both avert the team’s loss of the league’s top position to Barcelona against its long-time prime opponent on home turf.
An equal score with six minutes on the clock made a home victory even a possibility.
On the other side of the pitch, however, Barcelona had put Argentine Lionel Messi, a record-breaking living legend in soccer and one of the most feared strikers in the world.
Seven minutes after James’ moment of glory, two minutes into extra time, Messi superbly scored 3-2 for the Barcelona, securing not just the game, but also a major soccer embarrassment for its long-time rival from the capital
Nevertheless the loss, James’ effectiveness and precision, scoring a carefully executed goal with club stakes as high as they were, can barely have passed the attention of Zidane.
The Frenchman has praised his 25-year-old Colombian striker, but has also repeatedly criticized James’ alleged lack of discipline and excessive taste for parties.
The Colombians’ late replacement indicated how much it took to convince Zidane that James was the player he apparently needed.
In that sense, James may have lost the battle of his team against their biggest rival, but Colombia’s “enfant terrible” in Spanish soccer may have provided convincing evidence supporting the player’s persistent claims he deserves more playtime in the Spanish league.