Bayern Munich have undoubtedly pulled off the bargain of the summer with the signing of James Rodriguez. The Colombian has finally been offered some respite from his unhappy spell at Real Madrid, signing a two-loan deal which gives the Bavarians the option to buy.
Admittedly, his stock has fallen since his phenomenal performance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, the same has to be said of Thomas Müller, with whom he’ll now be vying for a starting spot.
Los Blancos may end up looking back and wondering what might have been, but there is certainly no shame in playing second fiddle in Madrid’s blistering attack.
The question then, for Bayern, is how they will accommodate both James and Müller. The former scored 11 goals to the latter’s nine in all competitions last season, so there isn’t all that much between them. It could all come down to a test of character, as one will need to restore their confidence quicker than the other.
Fortunately, this is a midfield that is competitive, but not as impenetrable as Real’s. An ageing Arjen Robben will not be around forever; the relatively early decisions of Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm to hang up their respective boots suggests the Allianz Arena is not a retirement home. James, together with Kingsley Coman, represents a long-term strategy.
A left-footed player, his versatility will be key at Bayern. Not only can he cut inside a la Robben, he is impressively adaptable in different positions across the frontline – a trait which Madrid could have utilised more effectively.
Zinedine Zidane will vouch for the fact that his former player does not take kindly to spending time on the bench; in a win over CD Leganés last season, he responded to being taken off by punching the dugout wall.
Managing, perhaps even massaging, James’ personality will be high on Carlo Ancelotti’s to-do list. The attacker’s history at Madrid has been rewritten somewhat. During the Ancelotti days, he thrived, and the Italian has no doubt been a factor in his latest move.
It’s a transfer that has ultimately surprised and impressed in equal measure. Such is Bayern’s dominance in Germany that they typically tend to target current Bundesliga players with a view to continuing that cycle.
James’ move is bound to capture the imagination of the South American market, though that’s not the only reason it’s a shrewd business decision. The Bundesliga already has a special relationship with Asian players and has opened its arms to growing fanbases in the Far East.
James is a big enough name to have a similar impact, but only if he uses his opportunity at Bayern to restore his faltering reputation.
By Kat Lucas.