Manchester United are reportedly chasing Porto midfielder James Rodriguez, but how good is he and how would he fare in the Premier League?
Rodriguez has apparently been attracting attention from Europe’s big clubs, including Sir Alex Ferguson’s United.
The 20-year-old has a great reputation in his homeland of Colombia, where he has been labelled ‘el Nuevo pibe’ (the new kid), in homage to legendary Colombian midfielder Carlos Valderrama, whose nickname was ‘el pibe’.
He started his career with tiny club Envigado FC before moving to Argentina and Banfield, where his performances were noted by a number of European teams.
One of these was Porto and he signed for them in July 2010 – he has now established himself as a first team regular at the Portuguese champions this season.
Primarily a wide midfielder up to now, Rodriguez is an exceptionally talented footballer and possesses great technical ability, with an eye for a goal.
The Colombia international has already scored 11 times in the league this season, which makes him the club’s top scorer; those goals came in just 17 appearances, 11 of which were starts.
He began to emerge as an impact substitute last season in the record-breaking season under recently sacked Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, most notably scoring a hat-trick in the Portuguese Cup final victory.
If reports are to be believed, a move to Old Trafford could be happening at some point in the future and Rodriguez wasn’t exactly coy when commenting on the speculation.
“For now, I keep thinking about Porto and about winning the Portuguese Liga title here,” he said on a Portuguese website.
“I feel very happy here, but if you give me the option to go to United, I am not going to deny that I would like to play at a like club that.”
So we know the young midfielder wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to play for the Red Devils, but would he be able to cut the mustard at the Premier League champions?
Rodriguez’s biggest attribute is his left foot, which can deliver devastatingly dangerous crosses into the box from wide areas – he is also second highest in Porto’s assist rankings with seven this season.
He is very one-footed and will rarely use his right unless he has to but, such is the quality of his stronger side, this has not posed itself as being much of a problem so far in his career.
While being predominantly stationed out wide in his development so far, Rodriguez has the qualities to play in a more central role due to his eye for a deft through ball.
A more defensive central midfield partner would be essential however, as defending is not exactly the Colombian’s strong point, though that is not to say he does not work back.
Rodriguez is relatively speedy but his pace would not be so effective in the Premier League, where the game is far quicker than that of the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
The ability to dribble past defenders is there, but he is most effective when letting the ball do the work and he has the ability to bend the ball ‘around the corner’ much like David Beckham is famous for.
The referencing of Beckham is further relevant as his set-pieces aren’t bad either – that is when he gets to take one, which isn’t so often when you are in the same team as Hulk.
Physicality is where Rodriguez’s problems may occur if he were to make the switch to England, as he is not the biggest and many South Americans have faltered in that department in the Premier League.
However, he is athletic and boisterous, so he could well be able handle the extra physical attention he would receive on these shores.
There is one attribute he possesses that will likely make him a success wherever he goes – he scores goals.
For most of Paul Scholes’ career people marvelled at the way he so often appeared in the box just at the right time to finish off a sweeping Manchester United attack.
Rodriguez seems to have a similar talent, in that his timing coming into the area is exquisite, though his wider starting position means he more often meets the ball at the back post.
He has the willingness to gamble for a chance in the box and his finishing is assured and clinical – one of those who can legitimately be labelled a ‘natural’ finisher.
A skill such as this is worth a lot in the game and the other, lesser, aspects of his game have time to improve because of his age.
There is also the caution that must be exercised when bringing a player from a league such as Portugual’s, which isn’t the highest of standards.
It would be a gamble of sorts to bring him to United quite early in his development, but James Rodrigues is could well be a big name in world football sooner than you think.
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