It had been over two years since the last time James Rodriguez suited up for Real Madrid. Despite rumours of his permanent departure this summer, he started last night’s match against Valladolid. Real Madrid supporters made their feelings clear when they gave the Colombian star a standing ovation when he was subbed out early in the second half.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu was on its feet and rapturous applause could be heard as James made his way back to the bench after only 57 minutes on the pitch. He held his head down after seeing his number on the board, but he immediately turned back to acknowledge the crowd upon hearing the applause.
After the match, he took to Twitter to share his feelings. “Back at the Bernabéu after a long time. It was a unique feeling. Thanks to the fans for the love. We will continue to work in order to improve,” he said.
James spent the last two seasons on loan at German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich. Despite a good showing, the Germans opted out of a buyout deal. It had been 816 days since the last time that James suited up for Los Blancos but the fans clearly did not forget their “Golden Boy.”
He showed several moments of brilliance in the first half, helping Real Madrid dominate. He teamed up well with Gareth Bale, another player who had been at the center of transfer rumours. Unfortunately, their efforts lacked accuracy and several attempts to hit the goal were either off-target or easily denied.
James was taken out in favor of Vinicius Jr. just a few minutes into the second half and the effect was immediate. Real Madrid lost their dominance and Valladolid started to find chances. Things got even worse when Isco was replaced by fresh signing Luka Jovic. Even after Karim Benzema netted a goal less than ten minutes until full time, Real Madrid looked vulnerable. Valladolid took advantage of the opportunity and equalised on the 88th minute. The match ended with a 1-1 draw.
After clearly dominating in the first half, Real Madrid missed the opportunity to bring home three points. In a post-match press conference, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane explained that James was taken out early as a precaution against injury.
“He played well. He came off because he took a knock, and if that happens I prefer not to risk it. He had a good game in the first half just like the rest of the team. He had a chance to score,” said Zidane.
Zidane also admitted that the draw left a bitter taste in his mouth. “It is a tough situation, it’s complicated and hard when you know you deserved more, the three points, especially given all the chances in the first half, all we needed was a goal,” he concluded.