It is no exaggeration to say that James Rodriguez has had a year he is unlikely to forget. The man from Cucuta, Colombia, who is still only 23, achieved things that many top players can only dream of. First he dazzled at the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil, where he finished top-scorer, then he secured a dream move to Real Madrid.
“I always longed to be where I am today,” said the winner of the FIFA Puskás Award for best goal of 2014. That accolade, playing every week with Cristiano Ronaldo and his longing for a homeland he left as a teen are among the topics the Merengue attacking midfielder discussed with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: You could hardly have had a better 2014. Could you have imagined a year like that 12 months ago?
James Rodriguez: You’re always thinking of making strides and I dreamed I’d get to where I am today. But now that I’ve achieved this and got to play for a club as big as Real Madrid, all I can think about is continuing here for many years.
What’s surprised you about joining the club?
It’s one thing looking in from the outside, but when you come here you understand the real scale of things – it’s something else entirely. I always considered it a big club, but now I’m on the inside, I can tell you it’s the biggest club in the world, no question.
So much is said and written about Cristiano Ronaldo and his personality, but how is it to actually share a dressing room with him and be team-mates?
Cristiano is excellent, both on and off the pitch. For me, he deserved his Ballon d’Or victory for what he achieved in 2014, yet he is totally modest. We have a very good relationship. Out on the pitch, everyone knows how valuable he is, but it’s impressive to watch how he trains and works off the pitch. That’s where you see the real Cristiano, and you understand why he is where he is.
Have you got used to living in Madrid?
Madrid is a charming city, with things to do all day every day. Everything is open! It offers everything you could possibly want. Both my family and I are very happy here. It couldn’t be any better.
It will be difficult to match that goal, coming as it did in the Maracana and at a World Cup, but I’ll keep on trying!
Having left Colombia as a teenager, what is it you miss most about your homeland?
You miss everything about it: your people, your food... However, I have to say I’m getting used to living away, as it’s been six or seven years since I left – even if you always want to be near your friends and family.
Back home, many people will be wondering if they’ll see you playing in Colombian football one day.
It’s not really something I think about, but if it happens, well and good. If not, we’ll have to wait and see. It would be nice to wind down my career in Colombia, although obviously I have a long way to go before then. (laughs)
Returning to 2014, if you had to single out just one moment, what would it be and why?
That’s hard, but if I had to choose, I’d say the World Cup in Brazil. It’s something that will always remain with me – and a lot of Colombian people. Everyone back home was following our every move, hoping we could make history. We’d never reached the quarter-finals before, which is why it will always stay with me.
And there was the small matter of your goal against Uruguay winning you the Puskás award…
Yeah, that made me very happy. I began thinking about that award right after I scored, and thank God it came to pass. The fact that the public voted for me also made it special – it was an open vote. I only have words of gratitude for them. It will be difficult to match that goal, coming as it did in the Maracana and at a World Cup, but I’ll keep on trying!
Were you following the vote?
The other goals [from Stephanie Roche and Robin van Persie] were also really good, so I knew it would be a hard fought competition. I dreamt about winning it and luckily that dream came true.
At Brazil 2014, you scored another magnificent goal – the one against Japan…
Of all the goals I scored at the World Cup, that was the one I liked best. It was a long through-ball I ran on to, after which I managed to round the last defender with a feint and dink it over the keeper. Apart from the one I scored against Uruguay, this is the one that I found most pleasing from a personal standpoint. This one required more technique than the Uruguay one, where I had my back to goal and volleyed it from way out. This one required a delicate touch to finish it like I did, which made it more complicated.
Colombia’s World Cup adventure came to an end against hosts Brazil. Looking back now, what do you remember about that game?
It was an unusual game, with a lot of fouls and bickering. They began really going in hard on me, but it’s all in the past now. What matters is that we made history and that we have a young group who can continue to do so. This group has huge desire to do things right and win a lot of things.
Maybe you can exact revenge at Russia 2018?
No, it’s not about revenge, but rather improving every day. If we run up against them again, it would be just chance.