At the 2014 World Cup, James Rodriguez appeared to cement himself as the next international superstar. Scoring six goals in five matches, including one of the best of the year, James won the Golden Boot and immediately caught the attention of Real Madrid. The La Liga giants bought him from Monaco for 80 million Euro before the 2014-15 season began.
But in a Madrid lineup crowded with goalscorers, James found it difficult to stand out. As the club realized that winning was more about all-around strength and not just fielding an all-star team of scoring threats, he was often the one sacrificed and left on the bench. James didn’t appear in either of the club’s two Champions League final victories, which came back to back in 2016 and 2017. Other young players—Neymar in particular—have passed him in fame and statistics.
Naturally, James got restless and Madrid didn’t particularly need him, so a loan deal became the best and easiest solution. James will move to Germany, where he’ll spend at least the next two years on loan as a member of Bayern Munich. It’s a move that will likely increase his playing time without particularly diminishing his status, as James will stay with a top-five world club. (It also reunites James with the original manager who brought him to Madrid—Carlo Ancelotti.)
For a Bayern squad dominating the Bundesliga but looking to reload for deeper Champions League runs, this is a solid, if not game-changing, move. James is no Alexis Sánchez, who would have been much more difficult to obtain, but the new Bayern man is undeniably a rare talent, and a slightly lower pressure environment might return him to his old potential.