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James Rodriguez: Shrewd acquisition or overpriced Galactico?

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Things are starting to heat up as we approach January and the transfer rumour mill perpetual machine starts firing shots from here, there and everywhere. The latest has created quite the stir and plenty of heated conversation amongst the Chelsea faithful about the possibility of signing James Rodriguez. 

James Rodriguez - adidas Shoot Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images for adidas

The year 2016 will forever be remembered as the year of controversy. Brexit, Trump, Axl Rose fronts AC/DC, James Rodriguez.

Yet another symptom of Florentino Perez's infamous ‘Galacticos’ policy, Rodriguez has failed to rival the glamorous heights he attained at both Porto and AS Monaco as well as his debut season in Madrid ... let alone of the splendid World Cup 2014 campaign that consolidated his reputation as one of the world’s leading talents.

In Radamel Falcao's absence, Rodriguez shouldered the responsibility of being Colombia’s star player, and his response was stunningly emphatic, registering six goals and two assists in 5 world cup matches. A period of magnificent form to conclude a mightily impressive season at Monaco, his endeavours were rewarded with a mega-money €80m move to Real Madrid.

Despite thriving in his first season at Real, scoring a reputable total of 17 goals in all competitions, subsequent injuries and managerial changes have thwarted the 25-year-old’s progress. Zinedine Zidane, who’s in the midst of a new club record 37-match unbeaten streak, has deployed James only sporadically (preferring Lucas Vázquez instead), with the Colombian star scoring a measly 2 goals in 16 appearances, most of which have been of the substitute kind.

Last weekend, James put his own future at Real Madrid into question and he’s since been heavily linked with Chelsea (it’s brilliant to see the Blues attain that status following the misery we endured last season), Manchester United and Juventus. He was pictured leaving the British embassy in Bogotá earlier this week, and while recent reports have cast doubt over the veracity of Chelsea’s interest, it remains even more questionable whether Chelsea even require the services of the Colombian.

Regardless of Rodriguez’s wealth of experience and impressive track-record, many are questioning the rationale behind the possible transfer. The reported £75m figure is a contentious talking point and that coupled with the status of being a cast-off at Real Madrid could be interpreted as cause for concern. Would the acquisition of Rodriguez significantly improve the quality of the squad or could the money be spent for better purposes?

Throughout his career, Rodriguez has occupied almost every attacking position possible, adding versatility to his technical flair which would make him a suitable candidate for Chelsea’s inside forward position. Eden Hazard, a player renowned for his excellent dribbling ability, has prospered in that position this season. Rodriguez is also recognised for his ability to evade defenders and create space for his team-mates. If the Colombian were to be granted a free role in the team, he could rival the success that Hazard has achieved — not to mention enhance the quality of not only Hazard’s play but Chelsea’s attack overall.

In his 63 league appearances for Real, James has scored 21 goals and contributed 23 assists. Even after adjusting for the advantage that Real enjoy in La Liga, that’s an impressive return. In comparison, Willian has scored 14 league goals and recorded 12 assists in 109 appearances, while Pedro has scored 10 league goals and registered 7 assists in 44 appearances for Chelsea. Does James’s massive statistical superiority to the two players he’d most likely replace in the Chelsea lineup validate spending £75m?

Willian and Pedro are both nearing 30 years of age, and while Willian is Chelsea’s reigning Player of the Year and Pedro has been particularly impressive since the institution of the 3-4-3, neither possesses the same longevity as James, who is still only 25 years old and younger than Eden Hazard by six months. If Chelsea do sign Rodriguez, it would be a long-term, statement-making acquisition.

However, while Rodriguez’s quality and talent is evident, concerns exist beyond just the financial outlay (which would be largely offset by Oscar’s sale to Shanghai SIPG). Would James fit into a hard-working, pacy side that often relies on swift counters to keep opponents in check? If it were James instead of Willian or Pedro at right inside forward against Manchester City, would Chelsea have been able to beat the then title favorites 3-1?

And how much would a big-money signing like James disrupt the dressing room and the balance of the team at this time? Would he be able to integrate straight away, and if he couldn’t, would that create unnecessary pressure on the squad? As Michy Bathsuayi can testify, first-team opportunities are at a premium this season considering the lack of cup competitions. Would we be creating unnecessary concerns by what could be viewed as a vanity signing in a position that’s not the most immediately in need of depth or upgrades?

And therein lies the dilemma. While the acquisition of James Rodriguez would strengthen the squad in terms of attacking quality, it would be an upgrade not worth the £75m that could be used much better elsewhere at the moment. A mid-season transfer would set up both the player and the club for massive expectations, which could probably be handled much better in the summer. James looks all but set to leave Real before next season; if he’s still available in the summer, that’s when Chelsea should make their move.

Could James Rodriguez be coming to Chelsea?

Could James Rodriguez be coming to Chelsea?

Posted by We Ain't Got No History on Wednesday, December 21, 2016