REAL Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has played down speculation over James Rodriguez’s future after he was omitted from the starting lineup for Tuesday’s European Super Cup win over Sevilla.
Zidane preferred youngsters Marco Asensio and Mateo Kovacic in his XI for the 3-2 success over Europa League winners Sevilla, which some observers interpreted as further evidence that James is surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu.
The 25-year-old did enter the game as a substitute, with his side trailing 2-1 late in normal time, before Madrid came back to claim the trophy through goals from defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal.
Zidane said his lineup had been chosen based on fitness, pointing out that key midfielder Luka Modric had also been a substitute as he too had joined preseason training late following international commitments this summer.
“James has just arrived back, like Modric,” Zidane told his postmatch news conference. “You ask me about him every time, but he is the same as them all. He is a player with talent and we have a great team. They can all play.”
James Rodriguez came off the bench to help Real Madrid to success in the European Super Cup.
Madrid have been uncharacteristically quiet so far in this summer’s transfer window.
They activated Alvaro Morata’s buy-back clause to bring him back from Juventus for €30 million but have so far made a profit after selling youth-team products Jese Rodriguez and Denis Cheryshev to Paris Saint-Germain and Villarreal respectively.
“We are working on it, we will see what happens,” Zidane said. “If we cannot sign anyone, we won’t. We have a very deep squad and a very good squad, players with experience and young players. The important thing is the group.”
Madrid had been linked with a move for Paul Pogba throughout the summer, but the France midfielder this week joined Manchester United from Juventus. That €105 million deal means that, for the first time since Luis Figo joined Madrid from Barcelona in 2000, the world’s most expensive player is not at the Bernabeu.
Speaking on the club’s official website, Madrid president Florentino Perez did not comment directly on the Pogba deal but said it was difficult to improve the quality already at the club.
“We’ve got an extraordinary squad,” Perez said. “We’ve still got to work very hard and our ambition is always to win it all. We’ve got a great player in every position on the pitch. Up until Aug. 31 anything can happen, but we’re really satisfied with the players that we’ve got.
“It’s very difficult to improve our squad. We’ve got the best players in every position, as was seen at the European Championship.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale missed the Super Cup game as they are not yet back to fitness following the summer, and Perez said he was especially happy with the number of graduates from Madrid’s Castilla side to have started the match.
“I’m happy that there were five academy products in our starting lineup,” he said, referring to Kiko Casilla, Carvajal, Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Morata. “It’s very satisfying and bodes well for the future.”