Manchester United passed up the opportunity to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid on the advice of manager Jose Mourinho. The English Premier League club were offered James as part of their close-season squad overhaul on more than one occasion as Madrid considered their options on the Colombia international, but preferred to look elsewhere to strengthen the second line of their attack.
In place of the proposed move to England, James has agreed to join Bayern Munich on an initial two-year deal. In addition to the €13million loan fee, it is understood that the German champions hold an option to make the transfer permanent for a further €30m.
James, 26, joined Madrid in July 2014, shortly after securing the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil. The transfer fee of €90m including performance-related variables that brought him from AS Monaco was the third highest ever agreed at that time, surpassed only by Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo’s respective world-record moves to the Santiago Bernabeu.
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The South American made 97 Champions League and Liga appearances across three campaigns at Madrid, scoring 30 goals and being credited with 32 assists, but found himself increasingly used from the bench under Zinedine Zidane’s stewardship of the first team. Important contributions to Madrid’s title run-in saw the club swither over the forward’s future before ultimately allowing him to join Champions League rivals Bayern.
“We’re delighted we’ve been able to complete this transfer,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “Signing James Rodríguez was our coach Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest wish, following their successful spell working together in Madrid.
“James is a very versatile player. He’s a goalscorer himself, he sets up a lot of goals and on top of that he’s great from set pieces. There’s no question that this transfer further increases the quality in our team.”
An important aspect of James’ decision to exchange Spain for the Bundesliga was the opportunity to work with a coach who valued him in Ancelotti, and the opportunity to be more central to the first team. The Colombian has thrived on such circumstances in the past.
Question marks over James’ ability to handle the Premier League from a mental and physical perspective (the forward missed at least 10 games through injury in each of his three seasons at Madrid) contributed to Mourinho’s decision not to pursue a deal.
With Wayne Rooney finally walking through a door that was long ago opened for him to join Everton on a free transfer, United have created room in their squad for a support forward. Terminating the high-value contract the club ill advisedly concluded with Rooney in February 2014 has also reduced United’s wage bill.
Though United worked hard to bring Antoine Griezmann in as a replacement, partially attracted by the fixed €100m value of his release clause, several months of work on that transfer went to waste when the France international signed an improved contract at Atletico Madrid. At the same time, the Old Trafford club was forced into the market for a centre forward by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s double cruciate ligament rupture.
While Romelu Lukaku’s recruitment from Everton has filled a hole in Mourinho’s squad it has come at substantial cost, including an initial £75m transfer fee for a player with a strong record in front of goal but significant shortcomings in his all-round game. That Lukaku’s transfer also further complicated Chelsea’s fraught relationship with manager Antonio Conte is unlikely to aid United’s efforts to sign Willian from the London club.
Willian’s tactical intelligence, high-energy contribution, and ability to play anywhere across the second line of attack are highly regarded Mourinho, who made the Brazilian a key element of his 2014-15 double winning Chelsea team.
The Portuguese also included Ivan Perisic on a list of potential attacking recruits delivered to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward early this year. Though Perisic, 28, has agreed personal terms with United and wants Internazionale to sanction a transfer, a fee has yet to be agreed for the Croat.