James Rodriguez is one of Colombia’s most recognizable global soccer stars.
The playmaker really hit the headlines during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when he finished as top scorer in the competition as Colombia made it to the quarter-finals for the first time in the country’s history.
James became one of the youngest players to ever debut in the Colombian professional league at the age of 15 with his youth club Envigado FC. After two years with Envigado, James was picked up by Argentine squad Banfield, where he was the youngest non-Argentine player to ever debut in the Argentine league.
Rodriguez married the younger sister of Colombia’s star goalkeeper David Ospina, Daniela, when he was 19 and she was 18. They have one daughter together named Salome, whose name he has tattooed on his right forearm.
They subsequently separated in 2017.
After starring for Banfield at the 2011 U-20 World Cup hosted in Colombia, James made the move to the “Colombian soccer factory” of FC Porto in Portugal, following in the footsteps of fellow Colombians Fredy Guarin and Radamel Falcao.
Porto allowed James’ skills to be recognized on an international level. James paired up with Falcao in his first year at Porto before having a terrific season alongside Colombian Jackson Martinez in his second and third years.
The 2011-12 season saw James as the fifth leading scorer in the league, subsequently being voted the “breakthrough” player of the year by the Portuguese League. The next year, he was named Golden Ball winner – given to the best player in the Portuguese league – at the age of 20, the youngest player to have ever received the award.
James was named player of the month in the Portuguese league twice in the 2012-13 seasons along with being the 10th leading scorer.
English giants Manchester United offered $41 million for James, which Porto rejected stating the price was too low.
In one of the most expensive transfers in the history of the sport, Monegasque side AS Monaco, which plays in the Ligue 1 (France’s highest league) bought James from FC Porto for $61.6 million, joining teammate Radamel Falcao.
During the 2013-14 Ligue 1 season, James had more assists than any other player with 12. AS Monaco finished second in the Ligue 1, one year after being promoted from the second division, thanks to Dmitry Rybolovlev’s (the Russian billionaire) investments.
2014 World Cup
The loss of star striker Radamel Falcao for the 2014 World Cup was a bitter blow for Colombia but the tournament marked the true arrival of James Rodriguez who captured the world’s attention with the quality of his attacking play, finishing with the tournament’s Golden Boot.
The number 10 scored six goals in just five games as his side went on an unprecedented run to the quarter-finals, eventually losing out to the hosts Brazil.
James became just the fifth player in World Cup history to score at every game in a finals, after György Sarosi of Hungary in 1938, Alcides Ghiggia of Uruguay in 1950, Just Fontaine of France in 1958, and Jairzinho in 1970.
The quality of his strike against Uruguay was later recognized when he collected the 2014 FIFA Puskas award for the best goal of the season.
His totality as a player, combined with his personality and domestic and international popularity has led him to be compared to who is perhaps the most famous #10 Colombia has ever seen, Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama.
Following his exploits at the World Cup, James made a $98 million move to Spanish giants Real Madrid and impressed in his debut season under then-coach Carlo Ancelotti, scoring 17 goals and providing 18 assists in all competitions.
James subsequently fell out of favor with former coach Rafa Benitez and later with Zinedine Zidane as he found it difficult to squeeze into a starting XI that often included players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale.
After playing 111 times in total for Madrid, scoring 36 goals and providing 41 assists, Rodriguez made a two-year loan move to German side Bayern Munich in the summer of 2017.
James struggled initially upon his arrival in Germany up to the point when manager Ancelotti was replaced by Jupp Heynches but managed a dramatic return to form registering seven goals and 11 assists as Bayern romped to the Bundesliga title.
Over the course of the qualifying campaign for Russia 2018, James made a vital contribution to the Colombian cause, scoring six goals as Los Cafetros finished in fourth place to gain automatic qualification.
With the Bayern Munich playmaker forming a devastating attacking trio with team captain Radamel Falcao and Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado, Colombian fans will be hoping that he can again terrorize World Cup defenses as he did in 2014.