Zinedine Zidane reserved special praise for James Rodriguez after his starring role in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win over Levante.
James, who replaced the injured Luka Modric in the line-up, made his second start for Real since returning from Bayern Munich. He then quickly repaid Zidane’s faith with a solid start before impressing throughout the entire 90 minutes.
The 28-year-old, in fact, proved to be one of Real’s biggest creative influences, and made a vital impact in the game by assisting Karim Benzema’s second goal to put the club into a commanding lead.
“He’s shown that he is a very good player,” Zidane told reporters on James during his post-match conference on Saturday afternoon.
“He has a lot of quality but in the end, he was lacking physically a bit.
“He gave everything on the pitch and ended up dead. I’m happy for him.”
After Casemiro put Los Blancos 3-0 up into the break, they nearly blew it in the second-half when Levante scored twice through Real loanee Borja Mayoral and former player Gonzalo Melero.
But a last-gasp save from Thibaut Courtois spared Zidane’s blushes.
“It [the defence] doesn’t worry me,” said the Frenchman.
“But we have to improve, and we will. I know we’ll score more goals and conceded fewer.”
Zidane added: “The second half was more complicated, especially at the beginning.
“When an opponent scores at the beginning it’s difficult. But we feel good – the first half was phenomenal. We had goals, good play and creativity. We have to try to keep that up for 90 minutes.”
Another highlight during the game was the debut of Real’s new number seven Eden Hazard.
The Belgian winger, who has just recovered from a thigh injury, came on for Casemiro and impressed in his 30-minute cameo.
“Hazard’s very direct when he has the ball,” said Zidane.
“But what he needs now is to train more. He’s only trained four times with the team.”
Real will now head to France for their Champions League opener against Paris Saint-Germain in Group A on Wednesday.