Monday, 15 Apr 2024

The Rise and Fall of James Rodríguez: A Tale of Greatness and Disappearance

Last week, the football world was taken aback when James Rodríguez made the decision to join Al-Rayyan in the Qatar Stars League. At just 30 years old, it seems that his career at the top level has come to an abrupt end. This reminded me of my friend Ian, who once climbed Mount Everest. His journey mirrored James’s rise and fall in many ways.

The Ephemeral Nature of Greatness

Being an elite athlete is a grueling profession that demands immense physical and emotional strength. However, the moments of glory are fleeting. Few can comprehend the feeling of having a lifelong dream snatched away so quickly. Athletes experience three stages in their careers: the arduous climb towards success, the exhilarating moment of triumph, and the somber descent from the peak.

what happened to james rodriguez

For James Rodríguez, his peak came during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Faced with the absence of Radamel Falcao, Colombia needed a new hero, and James embraced the role. He ended up winning the tournament’s Golden Boot with six goals in five games, propelling Colombia to the quarterfinals, their best-ever World Cup performance. His stunning strike against Uruguay was not only the tournament’s best goal but also the world’s best goal that year. At just 22 years old, James seemed destined for greatness.

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The Rise and Fall of a Star

Unfortunately, James’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived. After his remarkable World Cup performance, he joined Real Madrid from Monaco and was voted the best midfielder in La Liga. However, he fell out of favor with coach Zinedine Zidane and struggled with injuries. Despite occasional standout performances, particularly during his time at Bayern Munich, he failed to consistently recapture his early brilliance on the grandest stage.

It’s worth noting that Zidane’s coaching style may have played a significant role in James’s decline. As one of the greatest attacking midfielders of all time, Zidane had a preference for hard-working midfielders like Lucas Vázquez and Federico Valverde, rather than a more creative playmaker like James. Zidane seemed to prioritize a more disciplined approach rather than the freewheeling style James possessed.

The Perils of Success

James’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the fragility of success. One misstep can send you tumbling down the mountain. Another player who experienced a similar fate is Oscar. After an impressive U-20 World Cup final performance, he joined Chelsea, where he showcased his playmaking abilities. However, his star began to fade, and he made a lucrative move to Shanghai SIPG (now Shanghai Port FC) at the age of 25.

These examples highlight how quickly the football landscape can change. Players like Callum Hudson-Odoi, once hailed as creative prodigies, can find themselves overshadowed by newer talents like Kai Havertz and Mason Mount, struggling to secure a place in both their club and national teams. The enduring excellence of players like César Azpilicueta and Karim Benzema reminds us of the rarity of longevity at the highest level. Mere brilliance is not enough to sustain a career.

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The Evolution of the Game

One could argue that the brilliance of players like James and Oscar inadvertently contributed to their own demise. Their effectiveness as attacking midfielders led to tactical adaptations, such as deploying two defensive midfielders to neutralize their impact. This forced these playmakers to either adapt to new positions or find themselves marginalized.

Additionally, the modern game demands a high level of physicality from central creative players like James and Oscar, often at the expense of their playmaking prowess. With fewer opportunities to showcase their skills, it’s no wonder they find themselves on the fringes of their teams. It’s a cruel irony that players who are handsomely rewarded off the field become endangered species on it.


Instead of lamenting their brief periods of dominance, we should celebrate the fact that players like James and Oscar reached the pinnacle of the game, even if only momentarily. Their stories serve as reminders of the fleeting nature of greatness in football. As fans, we can only hope to witness such moments of brilliance, knowing that they may fade all too quickly. The ascent to the peak is a challenging journey, and staying there is an even greater challenge. But for those who make it, their legacy lives on, even after they disappear from the spotlight.


  • Q: What was James Rodríguez’s peak?

    • James’s peak was during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and helped Colombia reach the quarterfinals.
  • Q: Why did James Rodríguez’s career decline?

    • After his World Cup success, James faced challenges with injuries and fell out of favor with Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, which impacted his career trajectory.
  • Q: What happened to Oscar’s career?

    • Oscar initially showed great promise at Chelsea but eventually moved to Shanghai SIPG due to a decline in form. The changing football landscape and a lucrative contract offer influenced his decision.
  • Q: Why did players like James and Oscar become marginalized?

    • Tactical adaptations and the evolving demands of the game led to a decrease in opportunities for central playmakers like James and Oscar, resulting in their diminished roles within their teams.
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