The Speed at Which James Rodriguez Has Taken to English Football Is Remarkable

Sep 26, 2020, 6:03 PM GMT+1
James Rodriguez
Rodriquez shone during Everton's win at Crystal Palace | Pool/Getty Images

It wasn't quite a cold Tuesday night in Stoke, but a slightly damp Saturday afternoon at Selhurst Park is probably as close as James Rodriguez is going to come to the slightly unattractive, gritty side to English football that we often question whether silky players from overseas will be able to handle.

But yes, Rodriguez very much can do it in the Premier League's 2020 equivalent to a midweek at the Britannia Stadium, as he oozed class from the first minute until his 85th minute exit during Everton's 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace.

The victory lifts the Toffees to the summit of the Premier League table. Rodriguez has mirrored Everton's thoroughly impressive start to the season, hitting the ground running in the English top flight despite an array of factors that would have excused him a slow opening few months.

The Colombian international had featured just once in La Liga since October with his previous employers Real Madrid. He could quite easily have been considerably lacking in match sharpness when he arrived at Goodison - and yet in each of his three appearances in English football thus far, he has been the sharpest player on the pitch.

Rodriguez impressed against an underwhelming and off the pace Tottenham side on his Everton debut, before dazzling against a West Brom outfit who are hotly tipped to suffer the drop this season due to their lack of real Premier League quality.

Crystal Palace away was arguably Rodriguez's biggest test so far in his fledgling Everton career. They are not one of the best sides he will face this season, but they are one of the most robust.

James Rodriguez, Andros Townsend
Rodriguez was class | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

With Roy Hodgson's strict banks of four, the dogged determination of James McCarthy and James McArthur in midfield and the willingness of Andros Townsend and Eberechi Eze to track back and do the dirty work down either flank, this could easily be a game where someone with the technical ability of Rodriguez could struggle.

But the very opposite occured.

The 29-year-old dictated the tempo of the game. It was either played at 100 miles per hour or at walking speed depending on the mood he was in. If he wanted to, he could have all the time in the world on the ball. Or he could pick out an instinctive first time pass to send Everton scurrying forward.

Rodriguez was influential in both of Everton's goals. He slid a fabulous first-time reverse pass to Seamus Coleman, who then fed Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the Toffees' opener, before his measured, pinpoint cross-field ball picked out Lucas Digne in the build up to Everton being awarded a penalty - which Richarlison duly dispatched.

The instinctive, pinpoint pass was a reoccurring theme all afternoon. The former Real man sent Richarlison scampering through with a magnificently weighted first time ball that carved open the Palace backline. Had the Brazilian taken the pass properly in his stride, Everton's win could have been more comfortable.

But for every Hollywood pass there was a deft touch, a wonderful piece of control or a slice of outrageous composure.

In the 73rd minute, condensed on the touchline with his back to goal, seemingly nowhere to go and surrounded by Palace players, anyone else would have picked out row Z or lost possession. Instead, Rodriguez astutely kept the ball despite the pressure and the Palace players closing in on him, and somehow picked out Abdoulaye Doucouré in acres of space in the middle of the park.

His vision, his composure and his execution all summed up in 10 seconds. Sheer class.