James, Florentino, Pogba and Zidane

As soon as Real Madrid’s starting XI against Sevilla was announced, there was one glaring omission – James Rodríguez. From Casemiro forward, Madrid were without five of their regular starters: Modrić, Kroos, Bale, Benzema and Cristiano, and despite that, the Colombian still didn’t feature. But others did - Asensio, Isco and Kovačić, players who perform a similar role to him. And Lucas Vázquez who, while it might not seem so, is actually holding down James’ old position. James did make an appearance, but late on and as the third substitution, replacing Kovačić, who requested to be taken off as he was suffering twinges. Zidane has put James way down the pecking order from what we saw mid-week.

James is a fantastic player, and one who is worthy of a place at Real Madrid, as we could see from his first season at the club. But he’s got a problem to deal with - the so-called ‘BBC’ (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano frontline), which forces Madrid to play without an attacking midfielder. On top of that he has another problem – himself; he hasn’t reacted to his situation like others have – making sure they are ready for when the moment they are arrived arises. And there’s a third issue: he has become the source of the tension brewing between Zidane and Florentino. Zidane wanted to bring Pogba on board but his pleas were fobbed off by the president. Florentino views James positively, and was against offloading the player to part-subsidize the operation to land Pogba.

It’s not unusual for tensions to exist between the coach and the Technical Secretary at football clubs. One makes the decisions on confecting the squad, the other about the team. But if they cannot find some kind of middle ground on matters, then that’s not good. When situation of tension arise, it’s the job of the president to mediate and restore peace; but if the president is the Technical Secretary, who is going to settle any disagreements or misunderstandings ? I felt that the way in which Zidane demoted James in the Sevilla game was a bit over the top: “He’s getting at the president by giving James the cold shoulder”, someone who I was watching the match with piped up. It’s a plausible explanation as any. Or does Zidane really prefer Kovačić to James?