James Rodriguez, footballer, 25
Being from Colombia, but having also lived in Argentina, Portugal, France and Spain, it isn’t difficult for me to fit in anywhere. They were different times in my life. I was 15 when I was in Buenos Aires, very young. It was harsh. It was similar in Porto. I was very young, but I had a different status. Then I went to Monaco, before coming here [Spain]. I have learned many things in each of these countries—all of them are beautiful, and I only have good memories. Madrid is a fantastic city. I am very happy here, and I wish to stay here for many more years to come.
Among all the different leagues that I’ve played in, of course, my favourite is the Spanish one. But I have learned a lot of things from the others. They were all important stepping stones in my career to get here, right? I wouldn’t be at Real Madrid if not for them. They shaped me into the player that I am today.
You must never doubt yourself when you are sure of your skills and your talent. You must also have the confidence that you will do great things. I have never had any doubts when playing football, not here, nor at any other club.
Carlos Valderrama is a hero to a lot of people in Colombia. In fact, most people around the world regard him as one of the greatest, because of what he did, and what he is doing currently. And, well, his style is his own—it’s unique and definitely won’t look very good on me. [laughs]
The best goal that I’ve scored… I think it was the one against Uruguay in the 2014 World Cup. I think that was the most important one, because it meant we qualified for the quarter finals, a first in our history. That was a remarkable achievement for Colombia.
Greatest moment as a football player? Thank God, I’ve had many. I can tell you two of my best in recent memory though: the 2014 World Cup, which was something unique and beautiful; and my arrival at Real Madrid.
Despite being regarded as one of the best young players in the world, I wouldn’t say there is a lot of pressure on me. As I mentioned earlier, it’s very important that you know what you’re capable of, and that you are aware of your talent. You just need to get onto the field and do what you can, do all those things that brought you to this point. You have to focus on doing the right things. All the pressure comes together when you know that you are doing something wrong. But if you are working well, training hard, and taking care of yourself, it all vanishes.
I try to socialise with my teammates, such as Marcelo [Vieira], Cristiano [Ronaldo], Pepe [Képler Ferreira] and Keylor [Navas], as much as possible. They have a great sense of humour and good intentions. We are always joking and laughing, listening to music. It’s a very healthy environment. I would find it very hard to succeed at Real Madrid otherwise.
Once you reach a certain level like the one I am at now, you have to train well every day, always. If you don’t train properly, you will end up falling behind. I always try to train hard, feel good and put in more effort than the others, so I can be better prepared when I’m on the field.
Football is my passion. It’s something that I always wanted to do. When
you have the chance to do something that you like, you feel very passionate about it, and you are willing to do it. I try to go to work every day with a smile on my face, with all my effort and energy. Always.
I’m not superstitious. I don’t have any pre-match rituals. I am the way I am. I just believe in God, and I pray before every match for God to help me do a good job. That’s all.
I really don’t know what I would be doing if I weren’t a professional footballer.
First published in Esquire Malaysia, August 2016.