Bayern Munich have confirmed James Rodriguez will leave the club when his two-year loan deal from Real Madrid expires at the end of the month.
The Bavarians have decided against the option to make the Colombian’s temporary stint a permanent one, after the 27-year-old playmaker signed for the five-time European champions ahead of the 2017/18 season.
His maiden campaign proved highly successful as he clinched a spot in the Bundesliga Team of the Season, thriving under treble-winning coach Jupp Heynckes, but under Niko Kovac in 2018/19 he fell short of expectations.
After a tentative start to his tenure, Kovac managed to transform Bayern’s season as they pipped Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title. However, despite a late resurgence, the Bavarian powerhouse will likely experience a busy summer.
A number of established players have already waved goodbye, including Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, and now James will join them at the Allianz Arena exit door. But where could he end up next?
Below are six contenders to become his next destination; two dream options, two realistic choices, and two wildcard selections.
Dream: Juventus or Real Madrid
There is no harm in having too many good players. However, it hasn’t always worked out well for Real Madrid, and James can attest to that fact.
The Colombian has so far played his best football in Madrid, bagging 36 goals while carving out 40 assists in 111 appearances – finishing off what he started in Spain could be an appealing option for the midfielder.
Real, no matter their position in the Spanish league table, remain among the elite. For some, including James himself, they are the biggest show in town. If you make it there you’re likely to go down in history.
And so, after a tumultuous season at the Bernabeu, a fired-up James could be exactly what Los Blancos need, he won’t cost them a penny and we know he’s capable of consistent world class performances, but more importantly so does president Florentino Perez.
Juventus have also emerged as a possible destination, with the Old Lady set for a busy summer themselves. Massimiliano Allegri will step down as manager after five years in Turin, and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri looks destined for the hotseat.
Should a move for the Italian come to fruition, then James could prove the perfect player to help fluidly transition his ideas – something he struggled to do in west London. The Colombian would be the ideal attack-minded mezzala – similar to Marek Hamsik at Napoli – who could spearhead attacks from midfield and dictate the centre of the park.
The 27-year-old would also link up with Cristiano Ronaldo, a player he knows well from his time in Madrid, not to mention he would be bringing a vast European pedigree to Serie A, having won the Champions League twice with Real.
Squawka suggests: Juventus
While the fairytale story would be for James to return to Madrid and finish off what he started, the likelihood is Zinedine Zidane won’t change his stance; if he didn’t fancy him during his previous tenure, he probably won’t fancy him now. Reports have already emerged suggesting Ronaldo wants James to join him in Turin, and with both players sharing the same agent, Jorge Mendes, this potential transfer could have some serious legs.
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Realistic: Atletico Madrid or Napoli
With Real Madrid set for a busy summer, which has already got underway via the acquisitions of Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt and Eder Militao from Porto, as well as the perennial pursuit of Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, the club will certainly need to balance the books with a few sales of their own.
With that, Los Blancos will, without question, want a sizeable fee for James, but not many clubs outside the Premier League can stump up the sort of cash – circa £70m – that Real want for the Colombian.
However, one such club who could be flush with cash this summer are Real’s cross-city rivals: Atletico Madrid. Their noisy neighbours have already received a handsome sum for Lucas Hernandez from Bayern Munich, and are set to lose Antoine Griezmann, as well as the possibility of Man City prising Rodri to English soil.
That would leave Diego Simeone a considerable transfer kitty to replenish his squad, and while Real are unlikely to want to sell to a bitter adversary, they may have no choice as Atleti could prove one of the only clubs capable of flexing their financial might in front of Perez.
On the other side of the equation, Napoli are believed to have already tabled an offer for the Madrid outcast, though it’s said to be far below Perez’s expectations.
Should the Parthenopeans come in with a move lucrative offer, which they are likely to do, then James would reunite with the man who initially signed him to Real after a sensational 2014 World Cup.
Under Carlo Ancelotti’s tutelage at the Bernabeu, James was exquisite, looking every bit as good as the £63m Real couriered to Monaco for his services; it will come as no surprise that his dip in form coincided with the Italian’s departure.
Now at the San Paolo Stadium, James could be the precise player Ancelotti is looking for to alleviate the Hamsik void. He is the sort of high quality signing that the experienced coach could build his team around as he looks to challenge Juve’s domestic dominance next campaign.
Squawka suggests: Napoli
Having worked under Ancelotti James knows exactly what he will be getting. The Italian tactician has signed the Colombian twice, once for Real and once for Bayern, he clearly rates him, and at this stage in his career, the playmaker needs a manager who trusts him wholeheartedly. The South American has been in and out of the first team for a number of years now – both at Bayern and Real – so he needs a coach who can provide him a platform to rediscover his former form and thrive.
Wildcard: Man Utd or Spurs
As mentioned not many clubs possess the financial muscle to appease Perez, but one club who does have the requisite lolly to sign James is Manchester United.
The 13-time Premier League champions are in dire need of surgery this summer, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made no secret of his desire to bolster his armoury.
The Norwegian needs a fresh impetus in the final third, a new burst of energy, a crowd pleaser, and James is certainly that. The Colombian could prove the catalyst in a revival of optimism at Old Trafford.
With Paul Pogba something of an enigma in the North West, and reportedly on Real’s wishlist, after both the Frenchman and Zidane flirted with the idea of a “dream” link-up, this could be the perfect opportunity to sever ties with the midfielder and recruit an elite performer in his place.
According to Diario Gol, Perez may be willing to offer £70m plus James in an effort to lure Pogba to the Spanish capital, and well, many United fans would probably snap your hand off for that offer.
Another possible swap deal could involve Spurs playmaker Christian Eriksen. The Dane recently opened the door on a move away from north London, even name checking Real in a revealing interview with Danish outlet BT.
“I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I might want to try something new,” he said. “Real Madrid is a step up, but it requires that there be interest from the club before anything happens.”
Well, this could prove a unique chance for Spurs to lose their midfield talisman and still come away happy. Eriksen is in the last year of his contract and Daniel Levy is one of the shrewdest businessmen in the game. If he manages to lose the 27-year-old and replace him with another high-profile superstar in James, then his reputation as an acute operative in the market will no doubt skyrocket even higher.
Squawka suggests: Spurs
While Man Utd will always be the dream Premier League move, Spurs certainly present a more favourable destination at present. They have Mauricio Pochettino – a coach renowned for getting the best out of players – at the helm, while they will also be contesting in the Champions League next term, and they have arguably the best stadium in England, if not Europe. James could slot into a project that is already flourishing, rather than taking a risk in a precarious one up the M6.