KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- More evidence that UEFA’s financial fair play concept is helping to secure the status quo within European football’s power game has come with Real Madrid’s latest big-money dealing.
The European champions expect to clinch shortly the signing of Colombian World Cup top scorer James Rodriguez from Monaco for €75m to follow last week’s €25m arrival of German World Cup-winner Toni Kroos.
Space for them is being created by the sale of forward Alvaro Morata to Juventus for €20m and Germany midfielder Sami Khedira to Arsenal for around €25m.
The point of FFP was to instil a need for financial rationality among clubs competing in European competition with a suggestion that would restrict the runaway transfer spending of top clubs.
However the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Bayern Munich have merely extended their financial power with massive new commercial deals which have sent the ‘market rate’ through the roof.
Latest example has been United’s world record 10-year, £750m kit deal with Adidas which kicks in next year.
Meanwhile Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has been handed a new challenge in reshaping his attack to accommodate the latest World Cup talents – in particular Rodriguez.
It had been thought that the likely arrival from Monaco would be Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, formerly with Atletico Madrid, however that prospect was thrown into the air by the knee injury which kept him out of the World Cup finals.
Colombia’s leadership in Brazil was taken over, excitingly, by Falcao’s 22-year-old Monaco team-mate Rodriguez. He executed possibly the finest individual goal of a dramatic World Cup when he struck the first of the Cafeteros’ two goals which beat Uruguay in the second round.
Some 25 minutes had gone in the South American derby when Rodriguez, 25yd from goal, controlled a high pass on his chest, swivelled through 180deg and hit a first-time volley for goal. The shot clipped the underside of the bar with keeper Fernando Muslera flying hopelessly through the air, too late.
In the second half Rodriguez struck again. This time he glided into the penalty box to decisively climax, from close range, a fine all-pitch team passing move.
A penalty in the subsequent defeat by Brazil saw Rodriguez crowned as the finals’ six-goal leading scorer, made him the first player to score in his first five World Cup games since Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas in 1970 and 1978.
Uruguay’s veteran coach, Oscar Washington Tabarez, is a fan. He said: “James has been the best player in the World Cup. I’m not exaggerating. We tried to control him but he kept coming back at us. Football needs players like him. I saw him when he came to play in Argentina at 17 and showed he was a talented player.
“He does things which a player does through intuition not experience: like Maradona, like Messi, like Suarez. They can all do things because they have certain gifts that make them special.”
Rodriguez, 23 on the day before the World Cup Final, wandered with his family around the provincial cities of Cucuta to Ibague to Medellin. He was a footballing prodigy. He made his top division debut at 14 for Envigado, played for Colombia in the World Youth Cup and was loaned to Argentina’s Banfield.
At 17 he was the youngest foreigner to play and score in the Argentinian league and at 18 he became the youngest import to share in a championship triumph. That was where Tabarez first saw him.
Italy’s Juventus and Udinese scouted him but were beaten to the signing punch by Porto who took him to Portugal in 2010. Even then, at 19, Rodriguez cost €5m. A gambler’s luxury. Not according to Carlos Valderrama. “I think we have a great player here,” said the bouffant-hair playmaker who starred at the World Cup finals for Colombia in the 1990s.
One year later Rodriguez was a Portuguese champion and then playing in the Champions League. After 32 goals in 107 games in three years in Portugal his value had exploded to €45m when he was sold last year to Monaco, refinanced by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.
He repaid the investment with 10 goals and a league-best 14 assists as hs value rocketed by a further €25m in one year.