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James Rodriguez debut a positive from a frustrating campaign

The Colombian may have failed to work his magic against Juventus on Wednesday night but a sub-standard showing was the exception rather than the rule for a player who has shown he can be a leader for Madrid for years to come.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Modern football loves a good comparison and Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi head the pile - goal for goal, assist for assist and trophy for trophy.

Comparisons are drawn between Alfredo Di Stefano and Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona thanks to their nationality and fantasy football. Pele gets thrown into the mix. Who is the best of the modern era? Who is the best of all time?

Comparisons are also thrown at new players coming in to replace old. They are thrown at one club's star signing and that of their biggest rivals. There is little let-up.

Madrid's James Rodriguez did not, and has not, escaped. When Madrid paid big bucks for the World Cup star last summer some said it was a reaction from Florentino Perez after Luis Suarez opted for Barcelona. The two were the big signings of Spain's big two and, typically, comparisons with regards to their debut campaigns in La Liga have been made.

The Colombian has also been compared to Angel Di Maria given the Argentine is the one he replaced in Carlo Ancelotti's ideal starting line-up. James fits on the left of a midfield three, as Di Maria did, and the shock of Madrid selling the man who was the Champions League final's man-of-the-match last season lent itself to fans comparing James's success to that of the Manchester United man.

That the former Monaco and Porto man was the big summer arrival just a year after Gareth Bale also left people comparing the debut seasons of both, despite the different players playing around them and the different positions they took up. Most of the comparisons have been made with stats and stats alone.

There is little escape from the comparison conundrum but for once let's leave the comparisons alone. James Rodriguez has enjoyed a positive first season at the Santiago Bernabeu and can be looked at as one of the bright spots for a largely disappointing campaign for a club and certain individuals.

While Cristiano Ronaldo's goal burst largely tailed off after Christmas and Gareth Bale has received criticism throughout the campaign, James has looked the man capable of leading Madrid and being the talisman. At 23, and having penned a six-year deal with Madrid, that can only be a good thing.

There were doubts over his signature, especially with the £63 million sum involved, but looking at the Colombian's impact on the team his arrival has largely been a success. With 12 goals he is Madrid's fourth top-scorer, and plenty of them have been of his own superb making. With eleven assists only Cristiano Ronaldo has more so far this term.

His success cannot only be read from the statistics, however. James has looked comfortable on the often-tricky stage of the Santiago Bernabeu. He has the confidence but not the arrogance; he has the attacking flair that the hard-to-please Madrid fans demand and he has the work-rate for his team. He is the complete package.

That he did not grab the bull by the horns on Wednesday night was disappointing but it was not wholly surprising. James may have missed part of the season through injury but when he was fit he has been used. Carlo Ancelotti has not rotated his squad enough to keep the legs fresh and the Colombian, as well as Isco, visibly suffered against Juventus. Although he won Madrid's penalty, his passing was off and his tempo was askew. A sub-standard showing was very much the exception rather than the rule.

Arriving as a No.10 from his starring role with his country in Brazil last summer, James has also adapted to Madrid's needs. With Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale untouchable in attack, he has dropped further back into a midfield three and that has meant more defensive duties, duties he has not passed up and duties that have helped the team as a whole.

Juventus coach Massimo Allegri said after the match that his side targeted James and Isco because of their defensive frailties but that was more down to Madrid's tactics, and a lack of an out-and-out defensive midfielder in the line-up. James is an attacker chipping in with defensive duties, not a defensive-minded player.

That he has done well in his first year at the club only bodes well for the future and possible changes on a number of fronts last season could pave the way for an ever better James Rodriguez next term. The probable departure of Ancelotti should see a switch in formation for Madrid and that could allow a position further towards the goal, or at least lessening his defensive duties and freeing up his attacking creativity. Madrid's possible strengthening in the middle of the park will also work in his favour in that regards, while the rumoured departure of Gareth Bale could provide further options.

People forget the Colombian international is still only 23. To get over the nerves of playing on a stage such as the Bernabeu is one of the biggest hurdles in enjoying success at the ten-times European champions and James has already achieved that. Now, with his best years ahead of him and five more years at least in the capital under the terms of his current deal, and exciting future lies ahead.

Madrid are still likely to bring in more ‘Galacticos' this summer, especially given the relative failures domestically and in Europe, but in the Colombian they already have one who could lead the way for years to come.

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