By 90Min
November 23, 2018

The James Rodriguez story is that of a man who, in recent years, has had a habit of taking one step forward just to be pushed two steps back. 

At 2014, he was on top of the world, ready to take Madrid by storm. After a stalled couple of years in Spain, fighting a losing battle with a wealth of attacking talent, he finally looked as if he had found the formula to translate that Colombian magic onto the club stage in Germany. 

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Last season, he lit up the Bundesliga in a loan spell with Bayern despite a couple of prolonged spells on the sidelines. He was directly involved in 22 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions, and won Player of the Year as Bayern cruised to the league title.

Now, however, at 27, in the Bavarian cold, he is on the cusp of one of two things: he will either revive his once-again stunted career, in Munich or beyond, or he will go on to become one of the 21st century's great wastes of footballing talent.

If reports are to be believed, however, then Munich don't want him. It's impossible to speculate as to why that is - perhaps more will reveal itself on that front in the coming days, as the story seems to be developing pretty rapidly. Recent stories suggest that his permanent signing isn't a priority for Bayern, and that he wants to return to Real Madrid

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Whatever Rodriguez chooses (or is forced into) at this stage in his career, there's a likelihood it could end up being career-defining. The wrong move, and he ends up frozen out of first-team football as he heads into his 30s. The right one, and we could yet see the best football we've ever seen out of one of the best natural footballers of a generation.


What, though, is the right move for a 27-year-old that simply needs to be valued and kept fit in order to succeed at the highest possible level?

Returning to a struggling Real Madrid side under fresh new management surely has to be one of them.

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When he went to Bayern initially, it was pretty much accepted that he was there for an initial two year loan that would be made permanent at the end of it. Thus, when Julen Lopetegui took over at the beginning of the season, Rodriguez was not an option: he was a Bayern player for all intents and purposes.


The situation now though, you have to imagine is weighing on new coach Santiago Solari's mind. Should the loan come to an end for whatever reason, and should he be able to convince Rodriguez he has a role to play in the team, bringing him back into the fold could represent some impressive business.

The obvious change since Rodriguez last wore a Real Madrid shirt, is that Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer there, and he wasn't ever truly replaced. The competition for places in the support cast to Karim Benzema now lies in Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vasquez and Vinicius Jr - and Rodriguez at his best could keep any of them out of the side.

What could be more crucial still, and something that wasn't recognised in his last spell, is that Rodriguez offers a positional ability which separates him from any of the pack at Real. He is a true attacking midfielder, and while Real have preferred a 4-3-3 under Solari, he offers the opportunity to change things up.

If Solari doesn't see a place for him then it's likely Bayern will cough up the right to buy they're likely to have in his contract, and then sell him on a profit. In that event, it's impossible to say for sure where he'd end up. 

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You can speculate of course. There has been talk of Premier League interest in the form of Manchester United, and Juventus have also been linked with a surprise move for him. You'd expect that there would have to be significant outgoings at either club for them to justify the outlay on Rodriguez.

PSG are always in the frame when a high profile player becomes available, and a return to France where he had such success with Monaco prior to the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot showing that earned him his Hollywood move, might just be tempting. 

Anything could happen in the transfer market, but wherever he ends up, Rodriguez' fitness will play a big part in which direction his career goes from here. In 2018, he had four notable periods of absence, reasonably spread out over the course of the year, including the one that currently has him out until mid December.

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If he can get on whatever diet Daniel Sturridge has enjoyed recently (minus the betting scandal ideally), at a club who sees his value, then there's no stopping him. 

A lot hinges on what Bayern decide to do with him. In effect, they have him at gunpoint until his initial two-year loan spell comes to an end in June. You just hope that, whatever the decision, it allows him to get himself back on the right track before it's too late.

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