Why James Rodriguez to Manchester United just doesn't make enough sense

James Rodriguez Manchester United

The Colombian ace is set to leave Real Madrid, but Thore Haugstad explains why the Premier League club at the front of the queue might not be the best fit

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Let there be no doubt about it: James Rodriguez has the talent to become one of the finest players in the Premier League.

Even in tough times at Real Madrid, the Colombian playmaker has showcased his raw ability: the eagle-eyed vision, the crisp passing, that thunderous left foot. Only a club with the luxuries of Real Madrid could let such talent go unused, and the 25-year-old now looks a hit waiting to happen. That is, providing someone can accommodate him properly, both financially and tactically.

Only a club with the luxuries of Real Madrid could let such talent go unused and the 25-year-old now looks a hit waiting to happen

One club that appear to fancy the challenge are Manchester United, with Colombian outlet Radio Caracol saying a deal for Rodriguez will be confirmed imminently. Some betting sites have suspended play on the transfer (then hastily reopened their markets, to much chargrin). In Spain, reports say the move will be finalised once Madrid have played the Champions League final on June 3.

Such rumours raise the question of whether United would actually suit Rodriguez, and vice versa. The matter is a complicated one.

Sidelined by Zizou

What’s clear is that Rodriguez has the capacity to become another Real Madrid or Barcelona reject-turned-hero elsewhere, like Alexis Sanchez or Gonzalo Higuain.

Right from the start, his quality was evident in Madrid. Having arrived from Monaco for £63 million after his heroics at the 2014 World Cup, he dazzled under Carlo Ancelotti, notching up 13 goals and 13 assists in his debut campaign. But a year later, Rafa Benitez took charge and marginalised him, a situation that has stayed unchanged since Zinedine Zidane arrived in January 2016.

James Rodriguez

James's time on the bench has increased the longer he's been at Real Madrid

Reasons for that may include attitude issues and a drop in form, which can always happen to stars placed on the bench. Yet his real downfall has in many ways been the emergence of ball-winner Casemiro, who has occupied the midfield spot next to undroppable duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric since March last year.

Both in terms of system and personnel, there’s been no space for Rodriguez

Zidane has also used a 4-3-3 in which the ‘BBC’ forward trio of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano is untouchable. Both in terms of system and personnel, there’s been no space for Rodriguez.

More recently, Zidane has rotated heavily, only for Isco and Marco Asensio to outshine the Colombian. He has still scored or created a goal every 83 minutes in La Liga this season, but Real Madrid are fine without him and would gain more by selling. Last Sunday, he appeared to say goodbye to the Santiago Bernabeu, turning to applaud all four corners of the stadium as he was subbed off.

The situation is unfortunate, but prospective buyers should have a fair chance of restoring the form he showed in 2014/15 – if they can give him a suitable role.

James Rodriguez

The Colombian salutes the Bernabeu. Is it a farewell?

The Mourinho pattern

Can Manchester United offer that? Certainly at boardroom level, the deal makes sense. Rodriguez is a global star, an icon in Colombia, and would boost the thriving marketing department at Old Trafford. He also shares agent with Jose Mourinho; Jorge Mendes is a familiar face in the Bernabeu corridors, and has also done various deals with United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Another matter entirely, however, is how Rodriguez would suit the squad.