The future of at least one Real Madrid player has been decided. Bayern announced that James Rodriguez will join FC Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal.
The loan contains a purchase clause that will allow Bayern to buy James at the end of his loan spell if they desire. James was pushing hard for a Real Madrid exit, hoping to avoid traveling with the team on the pre-season tour to the U.S.
James leaves Real Madrid with a mixed legacy. When he was fit and in form, James was a major contributor. With 36 goals and 41 assists to his name, nobody can argue that James didn’t have what it takes to succeed.
But there were always questions surrounding James’ place in Real Madrid. When he was purchased in 2014, there was never a clear spot for him in the squad. James best role is a no. 10, a position that simply doesn’t exist in Madrid’s lineup.
By the time he was healthy, he had dropped down the depth chart. Benitez had no place for James in his squads, and only stirred controversy by repeatedly leaving James out of big fixtures.
Benitez famously decided to start James over Casemiro in El Clasico, presumably bowing to pressure from outside forces. Madrid got ran over by Barcelona that match, the beginning of the end for Benitez.
When Zidane took over from Benitez, he had the authority to maintain a midfield of Casemiro, Kroos, and Modric, which often meant benching the likes of Isco and James.
Even though James saw a substantial reduction in his playing time, he still managed to score 11 goals and assist for an additional eight this season. Nevertheless, James never returned to the status he had at Madrid under Ancelotti.
Thus, it makes sense that James would want to return to working with the coach that helped him perform his best in a white shirt. And it seems that the feeling is mutual. München AG chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge claimed in the official press release that getting James on board was Ancelotti’s no.1 priority this summer.
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The decision to loan James rather than sell him is a puzzling one. Real Madrid will not be getting the kind of transfer fee they would like to recoup from their €75 million star. Presumably that means that Rodriguez did not have the kind of wealthy suitors that one would expect from a star of his quality.
It makes sense that Madrid would want to get James off their hands if the player is unhappy with his situation. With the midfield situation already getting crowded and serious questions surrounding how Dani Ceballos might fit into the team, Madrid needed to offload some extra midfield depth.
But why include a clause that allows Bayern to buy the player, rather than, say, a buy-back clause which would allow Madrid to bring James back if he excels? Ronaldo’s time at the club will not last forever, and James would be an ideal superstar to bring back to replace him when the time comes. But Madrid may have completely forsaken that opportunity by allowing Bayern to purchase James if they are happy with his services.
It wasn’t a perfect spell, but I will personally remember James fondly. His wonder-goals, pin-point assists, and his joy for the game made him stand out as a player. Best of luck to him in his Bayern career.