Bayern Munich on Tuesday announced that they had acquired the services of James Rodriguez from Real Madrid on a two-season loan, ending hopes that Chelsea and Manchester United fans harboured of seeing the talented Colombian plying his trade for their club.
The 26-year-old’s departure from Los Blancos had seemingly been confirmed the moment Zinedine Zidane did not include him in the match-day squad for the 2017 Champions League final and the manager was vindicated when his side subsequently romped to a 4-1 win over Juventus back in June.
Real clearly did not want him, for a multitude of reasons, and the Colombian had set his heart on a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu after warming the bench for the past three seasons.
Reports suggesting the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner’s next destination came in like a deluge, naming all the top sides in the world but when the dust cleared, two teams (United and Chelsea) seemed to be the major contenders.
So why did the Premier League sides pull out?
The answer is fairly simple and applies for both the English giants.
Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils manager, favours a defence-first approach and wants players who can work their socks off over the course of 90 minutes and while Rodriguez has many attributes, he simply does not have the engine to do what the ‘Special One’ would ask.
Many players, lacking the pace and work-rate to fit into his system, have promptly been packed off by the Portuguese tactician over the years.
Plus, Mourinho already has a talented playmaker like Juan Mata at the club and adding Rodriguez to the side while still having the Spaniard (a fan-favourite, no less) on the books would have put the club in a bit of bother.
Which brings us to the Blues.
It was no mere coincidence that Chelsea romped to the Premier League title in Antonio Conte’s debut season in English football. The Italian, like the man whom he succeeded at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho, demands that his players leave it all out on the pitch.
And like Mourinho at United, Conte already has a talented Spanish playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, at his disposal. The fact that Fabregas hasn’t nailed down a regular starting spot suggests that Conte isn't happy with his playing style. While Rodriguez is a vastly different player than the former Barcelona man, it’s safe to assume that playing in Chelsea’s high-intensity 3-4-3 system would not bring the best out of the Colombian.
Which brings us to why Bayern Munich went for James when the likes of United and Chelsea backed off.
First, the Bavarians have not paid a hefty fee to acquire the midfielder/winger as he moves to the Allianz Arena on a two-season loan deal.
So with the financial risk at a minimum, Carlo Ancelotti (who signed Rodriguez while at Real Madrid) was understandably eager to snap up the 26-year-old.
In a side like Bayern, who enjoys a monopoly of possession almost every time they play, the Colombian will thrive and can become a world-class player once again.
With the Bavarian’s primary wingers (Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben) ageing fast, the talented but inconsistent Douglas Costa on the way out, Rodriguez was an easy fit. The Colombia captain’s ability to play in a number of positions, including attacking midfield and either wing,
Ancelotti, in stark contrast to Conte and Mourinho, employs an easy approach and while results have followed wherever he has coached, the fact that Rodriguez and he get along well was an added factor in luring the 26-year-old to Die Bayern.
Bayern have the option to change the deal into a permanent one, should they wish it so and hence, have got their bases covered in any eventuality.
Critics had called the Colombian’s career finished when Zidane dropped him from the Champions League final squad, but with the best years of his career yet to come, they will be made to eat their words very soon, one feels.