James Rodriguez says goodbye to Real Madrid at the Bernabéu… but what about Morata?

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 14: James Rodriguez of Real Madrid is seen during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain on May 14, 2017. (Photo by Guillermo Martinez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 14: James Rodriguez of Real Madrid is seen during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain on May 14, 2017. (Photo by Guillermo Martinez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

It looks like James Rodriguez has played his last minutes of football in the Santiago Bernabeu as a Real Madrid player. But what about Alvaro Morata? Alex McVey looks at the uncertain future of two of Madrid’s young stars.

Against Sevilla, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane made a double-substitution near the 60th minute , pulling off both James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata.

James appeared to get emotional when he was pulled off the pitch. In addition to the usual gesture of applauding the crowd, James turned around twice to pay his respects to whole crowd, soaking in the adoration of the Bernabeu as he was being cheered off the pitch.

It seemed as if both Rodriguez himself and the Real Madrid fans who were applauding him upon his exit recognized that this was a significant moment.

For those attempting to read the tea leaves for what the future might hold, James’ gesture seems to all but confirm what many have suspected: Against Sevilla, James enjoyed his last minutes on the Bernabeu pitch as a Real Madrid player.

Many of the media exchanges after the match were focused on James’ gesture. Zidane attempted to reassure the media that James’ reaction wasn’t a good-bye, and that things were still up in the air. Zidane had this to say, as quoted by 90 Min:

"James’ ‘farewell’? No, James is at Madrid and we have a lot left to do. We’re only thinking about the final stretch. I don’t want to talk about other things.We still have the most complicated part of the season to play and we’re going to fight until the last moment. We’ll be very positive and we’re going to give it our all until then."

This was obviously a big moment, as James’ is a fan favorite for many Madridistas, especially the Madrid diaspora spread out in South America, who were energized by the stand-out performance of Colombian in the last World Cup in 2014.

It will be sad to see James go, but I think most fans recognize that the time to part ways has come. James has the potential to be a generational talent, but the Madrid roster is simply too crowded for him to truly shine. Parting ways with James would clear room in the lineup for the likes of Isco and Asensio, and would allow him to seek the minutes that he so desperately desires.

But what about Morata?

However, with all of the attention paid to James’ gesture, many overlooked another important story-line coming out of the Sevilla match: the uncertain future of Alvaro Morata at Real Madrid.

Zidane subbed Morata off at the same time as James. Yet because Morata did not draw attention to himself as he was leaving the pitch, he may have masked an unfortunate reality: Morata is as likely to leave Real Madrid as James Rodriguez this summer.

Yes, James may have drawn all the attention with his emotional goodbye to the fans at the Bernabeu, but Morata may have also played his last minutes at the Bernabeu as a Real Madrid player as well.

There has been widespread speculation that Morata is unhappy with the playing time he’s received at Madrid this season, and will be looking to transfer to a club in the EPL like Arsenal or Chelsea.

Despite a goals-to-minute ratio of 1/82, a precision matched in La Liga only by Lionel Messi, Morata still can’t seem to displace the oft-derided Karim Benzema from the starting lineup.

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As The Real Champs’ Ben Sundock points out, Morata is the hottest transfer commodity in European football right now. With an already crowded attacking lineup, and Madrid also potentially in the market for French wunderkind Kylian Mbappé, you couldn’t blame Morata for wanting to seek more minutes elsewhere.

Yet, Morata’s reaction to being substituted yesterday was night and day with that of James Rodriguez. Whereas James purposefully drew attention to the fact that his exit from the pitch was symbolic, Morata simply walked to the bench without much fanfare.

There is always a danger that we as football fans become armchair psychologists, attempting to diagnose the players’ deepest inner fantasies on the basis of innocuous gestures. Hell, the #TransferTalk crowd seemed to think that Isco’s potato chip choices were a certain sign that he was en route to Barcelona.

Nevertheless, Morata’s reaction, or lack thereof, to being substituted does have to make Madrid fans wonder: will Morata be following James on his way out of Madrid? Or, does Morata’s more subdued reaction point to the fact that his time at Madrid has yet to run its course?

Only time will tell.

Be sure to check back for more transfer updates from The Real Champs as these stories develop further.