Copa America could provide the likes of James Rodriguez with a ticket to a better future

  • Govindan Kishwar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2016 10:34 IST
James-Rodriguez has fallen out of favour at Real Madrid. (AP)

It is a situation Javier Hernandez will be all too familiar with.

Ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, reports emerged that the Mexican had completed a transfer to Manchester United — subject to a work permit — for a fee of around £7m (`68 crore).

At the time, Hernandez was turning 22, doing well for his club Guadalajara in the Mexican league and was part of the national squad that would go to the World Cup. In Europe though he was a virtual unknown, thus raising eyebrows over the fee even though it was small change for a club of Manchester United’s stature.

The manner in which the transfer was conducted is even more interesting. Apart from Hernandez, not many knew of the deal. His agent was kept in the dark and so was his grandfather, Tomás Balcázar, who also played for Mexico and Guadalajara.

Manchester United had sent scouts to watch the forward twice but wanted to see how he performed at the World Cup. However, they were made aware that other clubs were eyeing him and a good showing in South Africa would only drive up the price.

And so a deal was thrashed out — Hernandez reportedly told his family he was going to Atlanta on holiday — making him the first Mexican to play for United.

As it turned out, Hernandez would impress at the World Cup with two goals, and, according to a Fifa study, was also the quickest. He would end his first season with United having scored 20 goals and his market value skyrocketed, with Real Madrid reportedly willing to offer United close to £30m (`291 crore) in 2011.

Hernandez moved to Bayer Leverkusen at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, having fallen out of favour with the now-sacked United coach Louis van Gaal. He scored 26 goals for the German side, and is once again being mooted for a move to a bigger club.

Hernandez or ‘Chicharito’ (little pea) as he is known, will be one of the attractions at the Copa America Centenario — being held in the United States between June 3 and June 26 — and there will be many others aiming to make an impression on scouts from big clubs.


Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez may be one of them.

The Colombian attacking medio was a prodigy in Portugal with FC Porto, before he moved to Monaco for around 45m Euros (`338.9 crore) in 2013 with the giants of Europe unwilling to meet Porto’s asking price. A year later, Rodriguez was the standout performer at the World Cup in Brazil and joined Real Madrid for a reported 80m Euros (`600 crore). After an excellent first season in Madrid, Rodriguez fell out of favour with new coach Rafael Benitez and then Zinedine Zidane.

He has been a bit-part player since, and was an unused substitute in Real’s Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday night.

“In football you never know but I want to continue here and my idea is to have many more years with the club,” Rodriguez said, after Real’s 5-3 penalty shootout win in the final. “Yes, I would have liked to play but I did contribute to the team’s success.

The “in football you never know” phrase is something footballers know all too well. From Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney to Lionel Messi, all of them have used it at some point to either have their wages increased or alert potential suitors.

Rodriguez may not leave Real but the Copa will be important to him and others hoping to move. A good showing could mean regular starts or ensuring agents help them earn a few dollars more.

The World Cups and Euros may get all the limelight among the truly big tournaments, but for some players, the Copa is a chance to stand in the shop window hoping a scout walks in and enquires the price.

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