It is almost certain now that James Rodriguez will be moving from Monaco to Los Blancos, for 60 million pounds, to become the 5th most expensive player of all time, trailing only his teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, and his rivals at Barcelona, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Like both Bale and Neymar, a lot of his value is in his youth and the idea that he may not yet have reached his full potential at the ripe age of 23. Now that the transfer is a done deal, it is time to analyze the ramifications of the transfer for Real Madrid and to attempt to decide if James is money well spent, or a big mistake for Real Madrid.
The reason that James Rodriguez is now a top 5 transfer of all time is because of his play in the World Cup. Comparing James’ performance at the World Cup to those of his teammates at Real Madrid who play a similar attacking midfield position, it is clear that he was the best. On a per-minute-played basis, he was the best player at his position for Real Madrid in all of the key Squawka attacking categories, and at WhoScored, he had the 2nd-best overall rating in the tournament, trailing only Lionel Messi – who of course won the Golden Boot, scoring the most goals in the tournament.
While his play was especially inspired during these five games, the problem with paying 60 million pounds for a player after a great World Cup run is that he did only play five games. Five games is a remarkably small sample size, and there are many players who have put together phenomenal five-game runs that will not be purchased for anywhere near 60 million pounds. When you dive into James’ World Cup stats a little closer, you find something a little more troubling. Looking at Squawka’s game ratings, while James put up a phenomenal game rating of 106.27 against Japan, in the two games against his toughest competition, Ivory Coast and Brazil, he had game ratings of just 13.11 and 17.42. While those aren’t terrible games by any stretch of the imagination, they are not what you would expect from a player of that expense.
A more predictive way to look at how James Rodriguez will do on Real Madrid is by looking at his stats from last season on Monaco. When you compare the same attacking stats that James dominated at the World Cup against his Real Madrid teammates, to what he did in the regular season in those stats, he does not seem to stand out. His attacking ability looks strikingly similar to Angel Di Maria, and his overall score isn’t as good as Luka Modric’s. On a per minute basis, though, the star of the group is Isco, a player who plays the same number ten position that James will likely play for Real Madrid and is even younger than James with potentially more room to grow. On WhoScored, his yearly rating for Monaco was a 7.41, a strong rating that was good for the 3rd best on his club team. However, Angel Di Maria had a higher rating that James and Isco were just behind at 7.39.
The reason that the comparision between Isco, Di Maria and James is important is because it is believed that Di Maria is as good as gone for Real Madrid, with him heading to PSG, and Isco is potentially the next man to get the boot from Madrid (to make room for the large James transfer) with Real Madrid losing a key starter to their Champions League Champion squad last year, and their most promising prospect, who was still playing at a high level in his own right.
Comparing this transfer to Madrid’s great move for Toni Kroos for less than 20 million pounds, the transfer for James Rodriguez has much better chance to be a big bust for Los Blancos. If he continues his five great games at the World Cup at Real Madrid, then he will be undoubtedly worth the money. However, if the more likely scenario occurs and he plays more toward his form at Monaco, then Real Madrid might regret purchasing him, and losing Di Maria (and potentially Isco) as well.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University