COMMENT: The European champions are set to spend a huge sum on the Colombian star but, given their current squad, do the Blancos really need him?
One of football’s biggest certainties is that Real Madrid will always be waiting to swoop for any player who has just been the star man at the World Cup. They did so in 2006 with Fabio Cannavaro, and did the same four years earlier with Ronaldo.
In 2014, the Champions League holders will add Monaco's James Rodriguez to the list.
His Colombia side enthralled everyone across the planet with their brilliant attacking football, with the World Cup Golden Boot winner at the heart of everything until their exit to the hosts at the quarter-finals.
Inevitably, Barca and Real Madrid were instantly linked with his signature and the former Porto attacker professed his preference for a move to the capital. Now, the European champions are set to complete an €88m transfer for the 23-year-old.
But the question that lingers: do Madrid really need him? James is a wonderful player, capable of dictating play, scoring goals and delighting crowds, but the club seem to be fixing a problem they simply don’t have.
Carlo Ancelotti elected to play a 4-3-3 formation last year with Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema forming an all-star front line. The former duo are the two most expensive players in history and will not be dropped, the latter is the only natural No.9.
A switch to a 4-2-3-1 (which failed at the start of last season) is a possibility, with James joining Bale and Ronaldo in a triumvirate behind the French striker but the projected exit of Sami Khedira will leave them desperately lacking in quality in defensive midfield. At 32, Xabi Alonso is not getting any younger and should not be expected to do all the dirty work himself.
James will become Madrid’s second big signing of the summer after Toni Kroos and though the German is capable of playing as a holding midfielder, he lacks the defensive nous and workrate of Khedira. More pertinently, he prefers to occupy the same areas as James.
This is also the Financial Fair Play era and teams must sell to buy. James’ arrival spells the end for Angel Di Maria (as well as Isco). There were question marks over the Argentine’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu this time last year but Ancelotti elected to keep him at the club over Mesut Ozil.
The rest is history, the former Benfica man enjoying a fantastic season in a new midfield role. He was even man of the match in his side’s Champions League triumph back in May. He has done little to deserve being pushed out two months later.
Di Maria's fellow Argentine Willy Caballero also believes that Madrid are unwise to get rid of him. "He shut the mouths of many journalists in Spain who doubted his talents. I think some people doubted him but he has been excellent," he told Goal.
The price-tag is arguably the most staggering aspect of it all. Though James enjoyed a wonderful tournament in Brazil, he remains a raw, unfinished product, desperately short of experience at the top level, particularly in the Champions League.
He has spent his whole career to date playing in lesser leagues and though he aptly displayed this summer that he is ready to step up and make his mark on world football, his €88m price tag certainly seems steep for someone so untested.
James is not a player Madrid are crying out for. They already have star quality in abundance in attack and finding a tactical system to fit everyone in is going to prove very difficult. Despite this, Madrid are willing to pay the fourth highest transfer sum in history.
Arsene Wenger had expected James to hone his skills in the Principality club's upcoming Champions League campaign. "I doubt he'll move this year because Monaco will play in the Champions League next season. But in the next season or two he'll want to move somewhere else."
But, at the end of the day, this is Real Madrid and they always want the shiniest new toy on the market. And in James they are set to sign a player who is very much in vogue after a fantastic World Cup. Whether or not he is really needed is another question altogether.