There is no doubting James Rodriguez's ability in front of goal. The Colombia international won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, with then-Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez listing him among football's great attackers: "From what I have seen, he is the best player in the World Cup. Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez - they do things because they have a certain gift which makes them special."
Every time Rodriguez is on the ball, there is the potential for something special. When he is on the field, his team are likely to score more goals. This was the case with Bayern Munich in 2018-19. They played 20 Bundesliga games with Rodriguez on the field, scoring 53 goals for an average of 2.7 goals per game. In the 14 games without him, they averaged 2.5 goals per game as they netted 35 times. If you want to score goals, having Rodriguez on the pitch increases your chances.
But if you want to win, it's best to leave him on the bench. Bayern Munich conceded 1.1 goals per game with him and 0.8 without him, with their winning percentage also increasing from 70 per cent to 71.4 per cent when he wasn't playing. He is a brilliant attacker, but like many players who have been gifted with technical ability throughout history, he needs to be accommodated in a team. Bayern head coach Niko Kovac put aside personal differences to start Rodriguez regularly in the second half of the season, especially when the Bavarians were the favourites, but in the crucial game with Borussia Dortmund, he left the 27 year old on the bench. Instead, a hard-working unit smashed Dortmund 5-0 and set themselves on the path to the title.
Rodriguez is seen as selfish by many around Munich and it is because of this that the club have chosen not to exercise the €42 million (£36m/$47m) purchase clause in his loan from Real Madrid. Kovac is planning for next season without him and their relationship has been strained ever since the Colombian called out the Croatian early in the season saying "This isn't Frankfurt" in a barb about Kovac's former club.
Bayern legend Lothar Matthaus has backed Kovac all season and was proved correct when the club bounced back from their Champions League exit to win another domestic double. Matthaus was unhappy with Rodriguez going against his coach and hit out at his arrogance.
"There are too many one-man-companies at Bayern," Matthaus told Blick . "Too many players who only think of themselves. Players like James and [Robert] Lewandowski put themselves above the club; [Arjen] Robben and [Franck] Ribery, too. The first whines that he’s not playing enough; the other that he doesn’t get enough balls, and the third one curses when he’s subbed or goes crying to the journalists. Some stars act egotistically and disrespectfully towards the coach, club, and team-mates."
Rodriguez's face doesn't fit at Kovac's new Bayern, but a return to Real Madrid also seems unlikely. The attacker's relationship with Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is also not a warm one, with the French manager having to repeatedly deny a rift between the two. “I’ve never had any problem with James, despite what the media might say,” Zidane told reporters following Rodriguez's departure to Munich.
Too much time on the sidelines at Madrid prompted Rodriguez to force the loan move to Munich, but neither club provide a route to first-team football next season. Four-time Bundesliga champion Stefan Effenberg advised Rodriguez to look for a new team in 2019-20, believing he is unlikely to get game time in Munich or Madrid.
“If he looks at his personal situation in a reasonable manner, James must realise that the right thing for him to do is to leave the club,” Effenberg wrote in his column for T-Online . “He has to play and have fun kicking the ball. If he is only allowed to play seven, 10, 12 or 15 minutes, he is lost. In the Bundesliga this season, he has only played 90 minutes three times – that's not enough. As such, he cannot stay with Bayern. Even at Real Madrid he will find it difficult to get the playing time that matches his talent. Maybe he has to go somewhere completely new. Either way, he has to leave Bayern.”
One option that has been regularly rumoured is a move to Serie A. There he could be re-united with former Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli, who is a big admirer of the attacker claiming "he knows how to open up defences for strikers with that killer pass."
However, a concrete offer from Napoli or any other club has yet to materialise, meaning that Rodriguez finds himself in a type of limbo as his future is uncertain. "In June, we will see,” he told Cadena Ser just a few months ago. “I have everything in Madrid: a house, people who love me... I don't know, let's see what happens.”
The people who love him may be in Madrid, but one of those isn't Zidane. Even for all Real's love of Galacticos and attacking football, there is no room for Rodriguez. Bayern's bosses want Kovac to provide more entertaining football, but it has been confirmed that he has no room for Rodriguez.
A lot of clubs would have been interested in Rodriguez, but they may find themselves reconsidering their position. If Real and Bayern aren't interested, then that puts a huge 'buyer beware' sign up for anyone else in the running.