Pundits and fans alike believed that James Rodriguez’s loan to Bayern Munich on a two-year deal for €13 million with an option to buy for another €42 million would be one of the major bargains of the 2017 summer transfer window. But one and a half years after James’ arrival, his loan has not played out as planned. His reunion with his former coach Carlo Ancelotti was short-lived, he has struggled with injuries, and his playing time has dropped under Niko Kovac.
However, is that enough to declare that James has no future in Bavaria? Statistically, James had a great first season at Bayern, helping the club win a sixth consecutive title by contributing 7 goals and 11 assists. And, on his day, James is nothing short of world-class. Hence, we asked a few contributors whether, in their view, James Rodriguez has a future at Bayern.
In short: no. James was obviously Ancelotti’s transfer. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made this clear back in April 2018, when he stated that Bayern should thank Ancelotti for the signing. Although James played extremely well under Heynckes, his playing time has been cut short under Kovac’s leadership, even when he has been healthy.
James possesses world-class quality. He displayed this to the entire world in Brazil 2014, and he has done so again in important games for Bayern. But in the bigger picture, I believe that Bayern fans are allowed to feel disappointed by James during his half a year at Säbener Strasse. On the pitch, James is capable of undeniable brilliance, but it all depends on the day, because he is also quite inconsistent. Off the pitch, he is quick to point out to the press when he feels he doesn’t get enough playing time. There are reports claiming that he has differences with both Hasan Salihamidzic and Niko Kovac. I think this type of behavior epitomizes what has gone wrong for Bayern in the first half of 2018-2019. James just lacks a general desire to stay and play for Bayern.
I believe that this summer Bayern will drastically alter the backbone of the entire squad. Legends will have to be replaced by elite footballers and exciting youth prospects. Our transfer policy should focus on buying players who have a hunger for success and, more importantly, heart for the club. Omitting James from these exciting times could prove to be a smart move.
Unfortunately, James’ future prospects in the Bavarian capital look grim. His constant statements of happiness followed by qualifiers regarding playing time seem to be veiled attempts at laying the ground work for an amicable exit back to Madrid.
The Colombian has undoubted quality, but his injury record and style of play leave him in an awkward position as a changing of the guard takes place in Munich. Thomas Müller has reasserted himself centrally, while the younger Leon Goretzka’s game is better suited for a role in the double pivot. The return of Corentin Tolisso also threatens to put a dent in James’s chances in the midfield. Kingsley Coman and potential reinforcements on the wing make an appearance out wide unlikely.
Rumors surrounding Kai Havertz seem to be gaining steam, which would put Bayern’s number 11 further down the pecking order if he can’t get a run of games at full health. As Bayern bridge the gap between old and new, James finds himself in between and not a part of the long-term vision.
Despite his omission from the rebuilding project, Bayern Munich should absolutely activate his €42 million purchase clause in the loan agreement with Los Blancos because it is good business. The Bavarian brass can almost double this investment overnight by selling James on to one of his many suitors, including Real, allowing Bayern to continue their squad overhaul in the summer.
Let’s take a moment to review James’s debut season with Bayern. The Colombian scored 8 goals and provided 11 assists in 39 appearances. There’s no arguing that he doesn’t make his teammates better when he plays. That’s precisely what Bayern needs as it moves forward in its transition from experience to youth. We need someone that is able to boss the midfield in possession, let the developing talents shine, and when required take on a man by himself to score a crucial goal.
It’s not hard to see the young prospects Bayern is stockpiling — think Davies, Gnabry, Goretzka, (Hudson-Odoi?) — benefiting greatly from the expertise and enabling power that James possesses. James has great quality on the ball, gives other players opportunities to make moves, and then uses his incredible vision and sense of the game to supply them with a pass they can do something with.
Unfortunately, we’ve forgotten about James’s style of play because we haven’t seen him much this year due to injury. But even this season, James has shown his off-the-ball quality in addition to his standard strengths. If other players aren’t able to make a breakthrough, he can get it done himself. All of these points of his multi-faceted game show just how important he can be in Bayern’s future. He may be 27, but he can make a major impact for years to come. That’s why ensuring he’s wearing red and white for next season and beyond should be critical in Bayern’s plans.
In my opinion, James definitely has a future at Bayern. If the training camp at Qatar is anything to go by, James was all smiles when training with his fellow teammates and looked quite content. It is true that Kovac hasn’t deployed James often in his system and never seemed to have James and Mueller play together. But given James’s incredible quality and his amazing form last season, I think Kovac will play James more often in the Rückrunde, especially for the all important Liverpool game since Müller has been suspended for both ties. I back James to give a strong showing in the UCL and up his production in the Bundesliga. After all, he was injured for over half the Rückrunde, which should also be factored into his lack of playing time. If we keep him, we can be assured of a world-class attacking midfielder who has lots to provide in upcoming seasons. Besides, since Madrid is in crisis at the moment, I wouldn’t think James would want to move to a club that gives him lower odds of winning the Champions League.