Bayern Munich star James Rodriguez is good enough to “play for any team in the world”, according to fellow Colombian Rene Higuita.
The talented playmaker burst onto the global scene at the 2014 World Cup, with Real Madrid moving to snap him up on the back of that tournament for £63 million.
He had already represented Porto and Monaco by that point, but was recognised as one of the best creative influences in the business on the back of an impressive showing in Brazil.
James’ spell in Madrid did not go entirely to plan, leading to him joining Bayern on a two-year loan in 2017, but Higuita feels he remains one of the finest players on the planet.
Speaking to FIFA’s official website about the 26-year-old and his ability to shine at this summer’s World Cup, the iconic goalkeeper said: “He is a natural leader. That’s why he’s the leading representative of the national team and our country and we hold him in high regard for that.
“He’s achieved things thanks to his ability, humility and work rate. He’s the complete player: he scores, he’s got a lot of technique and he’s a team player. He knows how to put a good cross in, find the back of the net and arrive late.
“He can play for any team in the world.”
Asked if James could be compared to any of the legendary figures from his era, Higuita said: "With El Pibe [‘The Kid’, Carlos Valderrama].
“People wanted him to be fast, but he was fast with his mind. He was mentally quick, the one who stood out in our era. And the one with most experience.
“He’d already played in France when we were just leaving the country. The whole market opened up after that and it gives us a lot of satisfaction to see so many Colombians playing around the world now.”
Another of the European-based stars expected to play a leading role for Colombia in Russia this summer is Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.
Higuita, who starred at the 1990 World Cup, said of a fellow custodian: “Like James and Falcao, Ospina forms part of the spine of the team.
“He’s good with his feet, though he doesn’t have to come out much or take too many risks because of the system. But when he’s had to come out, he’s done it.
“Look, if there’s a situation where you can control the ball and play it out, then that’s great, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking it in stands either. It’s all good.
“The important thing is to stop the opposition scoring. Saves alone don’t make you secure between the posts; to be secure you have to take risks, and it’s the one who has the ball who takes risks. There’s more than one way to defend and I had mine.”