This isn’t the case of a star born from nothing in the World Cup. James Rodriguez has been one of the best players for Porto and Monaco over the last three years. The fact that most casual World Cup and football fans don’t follow those leagues doesn’t mean he wasn’t any good prior to that.
Humble beginnings? Sure. Rodriguez, 22, began his career in Colombia playing for Envigado, the smallest of the Medellin teams. He soon moved on to Banfield in Argentina and in 2010 he was signed by Porto for €5.1 million. When Porto get their hands on you, it’s probably going to end up becoming very expensive eventually for someone else.
Three seasons, the first of them forgettable. But Rodriguez won three championships in Portugal, playing a major part in 2012 and 2013 with a total of 23 goals and 11 assists for both seasons in league matches. He wasn’t as effective in the Champions League, but it’s hard to say no one knew who he was, especially those who follow more than just the Premier League and Barcelona or Real Madrid.
In 2013 Monaco signed him for €45 million – that’s how things work at Porto. Sign for relatively cheap by using a third owner party and then make teams pay through the nose in order to pry away talent.
Rodriguez didn’t play in any European competition this season but was fantastic for Monaco with nine goals and 11 assists. He led Ligue 1 in assists, was voted for the team of the season and was their best player after Falcao went down with injury, helping the newly relegated club and suddenly one of the richest in Europe to qualify into the Champions League.
Rodriguez doesn’t play for one of the traditional powers in international football. He still hasn’t tasted Premier League or Champions League success. However, he was a star way before he scored his first goal in this World Cup. Now he has five, including probably the best of the tournament. He was a star before travelling to Brazil, only most people didn’t know about it.