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James Rodríguez equals Lionel Messi’s Copa América record

The Colombian captain has been in incredible form this summer, leading his team to a semi-final meeting with Uruguay.

James Rodríguez equals Messi’s Copa América record

It looked, at one point, like James Rodríguez’ international career was over. Omitted from the Colombia squad for the 2021 Copa América, his fitness issues looked to have ended his time at the very top level and he flitted between clubs without managing to make much of an impact.

Three years on, James is at the centre of a new-look Colombian team that now stands just 90 minutes away from the final of Copa América. The 32-year-old has returned to pre-eminence under head coach Nestor Lorenzo and has been one of the stars of this summer’s tournament, a decade on from his explosion onto the scene at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

James scored and provided two assists in the quarter-final win over Panama, taking his tally to five assists in just four games. That puts him level with the five assists made by Lionel Messi in the 2021 competition, the Copa América record. If the 32-year-old sets up one more goal he’ll be out on his own as record-holder, an incredible achievement for a player who has fought his way back to international contention.

Which team does James Rodríguez play for?

In the aftermath of Colombia’s 5-0 victory over Panama James admitted that there will be bigger tests ahead. In the semi-final his side take on Uruguay, who are one of the continent’s strongest sides under legendary head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

The most important thing is still to come,” James told reporters. “We hope to reach the final. I am very happy because we are going through a good moment. Today we played a good game and scored the goals quickly.”

This late-career bloom looked unlikely for the 32-year-old, who now plays his club soccer with Brazilian side São Paulo. He joined the team last summer but has struggled with injury throughout that time, playing just 10 minutes in the last two months. Since leaving Real Madrid in 2020, where he played just 85 league games in six years, James had brief spells with Everton, Al-Rayyan and Olympiacos before joining São Paulo.

His future in Brazil is still uncertain. He is the second highest-paid player at São Paulo, behind only former Tottenham Hotspur forward Lucas Moura, and club president Julio Casares recently admitted that “it doesn’t appear that James Rodríguez figures in the plans of our coach.” And yet, he now stands on the brink of a first-ever major final with the Colombian national team and a place in the history books.