James Rodríguez has the potential to be the leader of Real Madrid once Cristiano Ronaldo enters his decline. The Colombian playmaker scores, assists and impacts the game with ease when he is in good form and committed to the team.
However, after a brilliant debut season with Madrid, James Rodríguez became too distracted and struggled both under Rafa Benítez and Zinedine Zidane. The French coach wanted to bring back James' best form, but he was never engaged and appeared to be satisfied with his role as a reserve. James wasn't fighting to prove his worth as other men like Isco or Vázquez were doing, and that didn't please Zidane.
Still, the coach wanted to wait and see if James had what it takes to rise up and show he deserves to be considered amongst Real's greatest players. Zidane told Florentino Pérez not to sell James and yet the Colombian refused to cut his vacation short and train hard with the rest of the squad like Kovacic, Vázquez or Morata did. James had permission from the club to rest and enjoy his time off, just like the three players mentioned above, who decided that fighting and working hard to earn a spot was more important.
How is Lucas Vázquez ahead of James in the rotation? He is nowhere near James' potential, but he trains hard and does what Zidane asks from him.
Having the potential to be an excellent player is not enough if your heart and soul are not in the game, at least not enough to be a key player for Real Madrid. James has lacked the competitive fire to prove the kind of player he is and that is precisely why Isco is ahead of him in the rotation. The Spanish midfielder has had plenty of struggled with Real Madrid as well, failing to get a starting spot after three seasons in the Spanish capital. Nonetheless, he's worked very hard every time he's been on the pitch and he refuses to leave the club, knowing that he can still be a relevant player if he shows consistency on his work and contribution to the team.
Real Madrid face a very interesting decision. Marco Asensio is not a prospect anymore, he is a player capable of making a big impact and Isco is an important player for Zidane as well. There is simply no room for Isco, James and Asensio on this squad. James is the more talented of those three players and yet he is not the safest bet by any means, meaning that Madrid should part ways with the Colombian playmaker, no matter how painful that will be for the club. Having an unsettled star like James will be worse than not having James at all.