The making of James Rodriguez: A superstar by 14 and turned down by Manchester United

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May 8, 2002
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The earliest Premier League assessments of James Rodriguez have aged badly. “Not quick enough, likely to struggle with England’s intensity, and unsuited to this country,” was the verdict of Manchester United's recruitment department to Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2010. United declined the opportunity to pursue Rodriguez, who instead moved to Porto, the first staging post on a journey through European football that has taken in some of the continent's biggest clubs and now sees him leading Everton's renaissance as a Premier League force ahead of this weekend's Merseyside derby. United may well wonder what might have been, although they only have themselves to blame. “United’s scout in Argentina, Jose Mayorga, was a big fan of James,” recalls Marcelo Teixeira, who worked for United across South America between 2008 and 2011 and who was responsible for recruiting the likes of the Da Silva twins, Rafael and Fabio. “Mayorga always included James’ name in his reports, but the evaluation from the club was that his playing style didn’t suit the Premier League. “Basically, their analysis was that he didn’t have the speed required to thrive and adapt to the intensity of the (English) game. United’s chief scout [Jim Lawlor] regarded other names like Maylson [now playing for Brazilian fourth-tier side Pelotas] and Douglas Costa [Bayern Munich] higher than James.” There is still an air of regret to Teixera's voice as he remembers scouting the young James, who had made his professional debut as a 14-year-old for Colombian Second Division club Envigado. “I travelled a few times to Buenos Aires to watch James play for Banfield – I did that for at least two seasons before Porto moved ahead and snapped him up in 2010.

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