The Colombian was the second substitute used by Zinedine Zidane, but played his part as Toni Kroos sealed a late win for Los Blancos against Celta.
It may have been his last match as a Real Madrid player. James Rodriguez started on the bench again for Los Blancos, but was brought on after 69 minutes and played his part in the buildup to Toni Kroos’ winner. The Colombian may be on borrowed time at the Spanish side, but he showed on Saturday that he is still fighting for his future at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The 25-year-old is enduring a tough time at the moment. He has featured in all three of Madrid’s matches so far in 2016-17, but has failed to start any of them and has played just 81 minutes in total. One of the world’s most expensive players following his 80 million euro ($89.6M) signing in the summer of 2014, he has become a bit-part player.
In the UEFA Super Cup in Trondheim, James was the third substitute used by Zinedine Zidane; at Anoeta against Real Sociedad he was the final change again; and on Saturday he was the second man off the bench as Real chased the game at 1-1 versus Celta Vigo.
Zidane has admitted a lack of playing time could represent a problem for the Colombian, yet he has still selected the former Monaco man sparingly and said on Friday that there may be some departures before the window closes on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, James remains keen to stay at the Bernabeu and having set up Gareth Bale’s goal in the 3-0 win in San Sebastian last weekend, he played his part in a vital victory on Saturday.
Brought on to replace Luka Modric (who had come close with three long-range efforts in the first half), James was immediately involved as Madrid sought a winner – with Alvaro Morata’s goal (which may have been offside) on the hour having been canceled out by Fabian Orellana’s sweet strike from outside the box.
The Colombian linked up with Morata in the area and looked to be held back as he shaped to shoot. All of Madrid’s players protested, but the referee waved play on. No penalty.
READ MORE | Madrid edges out Celta thanks to Kroos cracker
After that, Celta’s pressing meant that James was deprived of the time and space on the ball he prefers, yet he was aggressive in winning back possession and worked hard to find solutions for Zidane’s side late in the game.
And after 82 minutes, he hustled and harried for the ball as it looked lost, allowing Lucas Vazquez to cross and Kroos to drive home a super strike from distance that went in off the post. It may have seemed a small contribution, but it was significant and showed he still wants to be here.
“James was good today,” Zidane said afterwards. “He was involved. He is going to stay.”
And unless there is a big offer for the Colombian in the coming days, that is probably true. But on Saturday’s evidence, it may just work out for player and club in 2016-17 after all.