The former Blancos striker believes the Golden Boot winner can compete in a high-pressure environment. He also is optimistic about the growth of the game in North America.Expectations will be high for Real Madrid's new signing James Rodriguez, but Emilio Butragueno, the club's director of institutional relations, is confident the Colombia international will be able to handle the pressure.
"We think he’s very talented, a very gifted player. He is young. Real Madrid’s a very demanding club," Butragueno told reporters in Dallas, where Madrid's preseason preperations continue with a Tuesday match against Roma. "Our fans are very loyal, but at the same time they expect your best. Every game is like a test, so you have to play well. We have to win. So it’s part of our culture, our history. We have to win a title. It’s what our fans expect."
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Butragueno knows well what the Bernabeu faithful demand. Now 51, he was a Blancos striker for more than a decade, scoring 123 goals in more than 300 appearances. During his time with Madrid he won the Liga title six times and the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup twice each.
Rodriguez already has bested Butragueno in one respect: He won the World Cup Golden Boot after scoring six times for Colombia in this year's tournament, while the Spanish striker's five goals in the 1986 competition put him one short of Gary Lineker's winning mark. But Rodriguez will have to perform at the highest level for longer than two weeks if he is to become a Madrid legend. Butragueno believes the 23-year-old has the personality needed to succeed long-term in a high-pressure environment.
"He’s a nice guy. I had the opportunity to be with him during the presentation, and I think he’s down to earth," Butragueno said. "He’s looking forward to starting the season, to helping us. Then we’ll see. But really we are very optimistic about what [role] he can play for us."
The Real Madrid legend closed his playing career in North America, scoring 29 goals during three years with Celaya of Mexico, and said he's impressed with the game's progress in the region.
“it’s growing in a very steady way. I think the performance of the United States in the last World Cup was remarkable," he said. "The group phase was really, really tough with Portugal and Germany, so it means a lot in how football, soccer, here has improved.
"So, they’re doing very well, the United States. They have a long-term vision and now you’re getting the benefits, you’re reaping the benefits of that work and you’re doing it really, really well.”