James Rodriguez has shined like nobody else at the World Cup

james-rodríguezAsk anybody who follows the World Cup who the player of the tournament has been so far and you’ll likely get a surprising answer. Lionel Messi will get some love. So will Neymar. But the name on everybody’s mouth these days hasn’t been the Barcelona teammates.

It’s Colombia’s James Rodriguez. Or as he prefers his first name to be pronounced, ‘Hahm-ez’ Rodriguez.

A lot of football fans, specifically those of the bandwagon variety, have probably never heard of Rodriguez. I for one, didn’t know about him until last year when AS Monaco, celebrating its new-found Middle Eastern riches, paid a combined €70 million ($95 million) transfer fee for him and FC Porto teammate João Moutinho.

Entering the World Cup, few even gave Colombia a chance after star striker Radamel Falcao was lost to injury. Rodriguez was expected to fill the void left by Falcao, but that didn’t stop pundits from dooming Las Cafeteros’ chances in the tournament. And so it went, Colombia’s chances of making a deep run was scoffed at and dismissed.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, and if you asked these people now, they’d tell you that Rodriguez would be the breakout star of the World Cup. Only nobody saw it coming, which is likely why most bookmakers didn’t even have him listed in the Golden Boot odds before the start of the tournament.

But Rodriguez has been nothing short of incredible, spectacular even, to the point that he’s not only leading the tournament in goals scored, but he’s the only player left who has scored in each of the games he has played in the tournament. It’s an incredible rise to the pinnacle of the sport in the biggest stage it has to offer.

Right now, Rodriguez has 3/1 odds to win the Golden Boot. Only Lionel Messi has shorter odds at 5/2. But guess what, Rodriguez has one more goal (five) to his name than Messi and Neymar (four each).

Rodriguez has become the poster boy of this World Cup, the anti Luis Suarez who seems to illicit gushes and blushes by the mere mention of his name. Should he lead Colombia to a World Cup title, you can bet your pink slips that this 22-year old will be the subject of a bidding war from some of the biggest football clubs in the world.

That’s the kind of meteoric rise to superstardom a player finds himself in if he performs like Rodriguez has in the tournament. A date with Neymar and Brazil looms for Colombia and while it may have been pegged as a lopsided encounter before the start of the tournament, perception of the underdogs have definitely changed. Heading into that match, Brazil is only a 10/11 favorite with Colombia sitting at 15/4 underdogs and if Colombia somehow pulls it off, nobody’s going to be shocked that they did because at the end of the day, it’s got the front-runner for Best Player of the Tournament on its side.

His name is James Rodrigues. Remember it now, and remember it good.