By Peter Jenkins
Jamés Rodriguez was tipped by many to be the next big star when he made the €90m switch from Monaco to Real Madrid back in 2014. The Colombian midfielder had impressed with six goals in five matches as his country progressed to the quarter-final stage of that summer’s World Cup tournament in Brazil.
The youngster’s arrival in the Spanish capital echoed the ‘galactico’ era when such players were expected to hit the ground running alongside other members of an all-star line-up. To add to the pressure, he was filling a void left by Angel Di Maria, a popular figure who, just a couple of months earlier, had put in a man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final before departing for Manchester United.
Despite the constant scrutiny, the 24-year-old at least lived up to expectations in his first season. A record of 17 goals and 18 assists under Carlo Ancelotti hinted that the midfielder would be the central focus of the Los Blancos set-up for many years to come. But in the end, it didn’t quite work out like that.
Within three years, Jamés was being jokingly referred to by the Spanish Press as the ‘Galactico of the B team,’ and the inevitable doubts about his future began to surface. A dip in form, a change of management, a run of injuries and stiff competition in the midfield area meant that only a remarkable turnaround in fortunes would prevent him from becoming surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu.
A little fortune did come his way when the continued injuries of Gareth Bale left the door open for his return. He did enough to gain some minutes under Zinedine Zidane but despite his efforts, he was never a regular during what would be his last season at the club. To rub salt into his wounds, he was left out of the Champions League final squad that faced Juventus in Cardiff back in May, 2017.
It came as no surprise when Bayern Munich first showed an interest in arranging a loan deal for the boy from Cúcuta. After all, it was Carlo Ancelotti who guided the player through his best days in Spain. And the Italian boss obviously felt that he could help the 26-year-old to recover the magic that was first revealed to the public at large during the summer of 2014.
With two years to impress before Bayern can choose to exercise their €30m buyout option, James will want to establish himself in the first team in Bavaria. By the time his loan spell ends he will be nearly 28 years old and right in the prime of his career. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that it is now or never for the former Banfield and Porto man.
With many suggesting that Bayern Munich are reaching a crucial transitional period in the post-Guardiola era – and with other clubs in the division appearing stronger – dominance in the Bundesliga is by no means guaranteed. And with veterans like Arjen Robben and Frank Franck Ribéry now well into their 30s, it will be newcomers like James who the club will be turning to in order to carry them through.
So far, things have started well for the young midfielder in Germany. After missing the start of the new campaign with a thigh injury, he put in a man-of-the-match display on his debut, earning a penalty and then finding the net with his very first shot on goal before providing the assist for Bayern’s second. If he can continue in this vein, he should quickly become a favourite amongst the faithful at the Allianz Arena.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) September 19, 2017
That win fired the Bavarian giants back to the top of the Bundesliga and their title odds shortened as a result. With their probable rise to the top, the free bets offered by Oddschecker may be of interest to some punters for those backing Bayern to claim a 6th straight Bundesliga title. However, despite their position at the top of the table, the lead remains precarious with just two points separating the top four teams and Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96 both benefiting from a game in hand. Remarkably, Peter Bosz’s Dortmund side have yet to concede a goal while Hannover 96 have shipped just one without defeat.
At first glance, it appears that this German top flight could see one of the most competitive title battles since Jürgen Klopp decided he needed an extended holiday. At least six teams in the league could stake a claim as contenders for the crown, although how many of those will be able to perform over the course of a season remains to be seen.
For this reason, this is perhaps the most interesting time for Jamés Rodriguez to join the club. Success is by no means guaranteed and he will have a chance to shine in a squad that will be looking for leadership and inspiration in the midfield area.
For the player, this move brings freedom and a brand new opportunity. The hype and over-bearing weight of expectation has been replaced by a sense of calm and relief as he returns to work with his former boss.
Above all else, it is Ancelotti who is the key here. Once the Italian boss has an eye for a player, he tends to get the most out of them. And he sees something in James that he feels will improve any team that he manages, no matter who else is in the side. But with the Italian, that world class seal of approval does not bring any unnecessary stress. It is simply a case of a top Coach knowing how to best utilise an extremely versatile No. 10. And a sense of trust on both sides.
Barring injury, the Colombia Captain should get plenty of playing time this season and Bayern Munich fans could be in for a treat. When he is at his very best, Jamés Rodriguez is a joy to watch and there is a case to be made that Ancelotti also sees him as a pivotal part of their Champions League quest. He can add goals, assists and quality from the midfield and wide areas in a competition where these attributes will be even more important.
What’s more, there is a certain matter of a World Cup to look forward to next year and as well as redeeming himself as a player, Jamés will be keen to arrive in Russia with a couple of trophies under his belt.
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