After a tumultuous, exhausting journey with Real Madrid, James Rodriguez is finally free.
Well, perhaps that is over-dramatizing the situation a bit, but given the fact that the last three years have been rough and inconsistent for the Colombian, who turns 26 on Wednesday, his latest club move checks all the boxes for what he needed.
Since 2014 and his breakout World Cup performance in Brazil, James, Colombia's captain, has gone through the most difficult period of his career as injuries, management, tactical differences and personal obstacles never really allowed him to blossom in Spain and play on a regular basis. But on Tuesday, Bayern Munich threw the proverbial life-jacket with a two-year loan deal and rescued James from the depths of obscurity. The German champions also have the opportunity to buy after the deal expires, reportedly for a very reasonable €35.2 million, offering James not just opportunity but insurance going forward.
"We are very happy that we have managed to conclude this transfer," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern's chairman. "The signing of James Rodríguez was the big wish from our manager, Carlo Ancelotti, after the two of them worked together successfully at Real Madrid."
This is a key point.
Ancelotti has been an admirer of James for quite some time, and it was under the Italian where James managed to score 17 goals and 18 assists in all competitions on his debut season. Not only that, but just like Colombia manager José Pékerman, Ancelotti understands how to utilize the unique assets of this unique No. 10.
"James is a very versatile player. He scores a lot of goals himself and is also able to set up goals and sets overall high standards. We have, without question, heightened the quality of the squad with this transfer,” concluded Rummenigge, upon the conclusion of the loan announcement.
James's arrival is also timely as Douglas Costa has joined Juventus on another two-year loan deal, meaning that the offensive pecking order shortens ever so slightly. Regardless of the logjam of attacking talent, one of the most appealing factors about this signing is that Bayern Munich is the type of team that complements the strengths of a player more so than any other European unit. Last season, aside from Robert Lewandowski (30 goals, five assists in the league) the stats were evenly distributed across the midfield, meaning that the wealth and opportunity are evenly shared. In addition, with the exception of Renato Sanches–the Portugal rising star who had a disappointing season and is likely to spend the next season on loan–every midfielder in the first squad played at least 22 league matches.
James will get his chance, but more importantly, he will get his minutes.
The league is one story, though, as this move, for Bayern, really is about it attempt to win the Champions League and restore itself as Europe's dominant club. Ironically, it was Real Madrid who eliminated the German side last season in the quarterfinals (6-3 on aggregate) and one of the main reasons was the inability to finish off chances in the box. In the first leg at home, Bayern took 23 shots and only managed to score once; in the second leg, the shot tally was 20. James's introduction automatically enhances the team's chances of scoring and more so, alleviates the pressure from Thiago Alcántara and Arturo Vidal, who collectively put up five goals throughout the entire competition.
As for Real Madrid, aside from financial release, it's difficult to see what the Spanish giants get out of this deal, having helped a European rival become that much stronger without getting anything back in return.
But in the end, this is about James Rodriguez, a new chapter in his career, an introduction to a new league and a reunion with a manager who appreciates and understands his assets.
With less than a year to go for the World Cup, and Colombia looking good for a spot in Russia, it's nothing but perfect timing, and maybe even sweet redemption.