James is an essential player - Pekerman

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He may be out of favour at Real Madrid, but Colombia coach Jose Pekerman insists captain James Rodriguez remains an essential player for the South Americans.

James has struggled for regular game time since Zinedine Zidane took charge of Madrid last season, managing just five LaLiga appearances this term, with only two of them as a starter.

While it has led to doubts over his future in the Spanish capital, the 25-year-old is still a key member of the Colombia team ahead of Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Chile.

"When we talk about James, we're taking about a player who has many virtues," Pekerman said.

"In the final third there's no one who compares to him, and he's got a powerful left-foot shot, he's versatile and flexible.

"He's a fundamental player within the Colombia set up and within the harmony which he enjoys with his team-mates whether he plays on the right, on the left or through the middle."

Colombia are fourth in the CONMEBOL standings after 10 rounds, a point clear of Chile and four points behind leaders Brazil.