Manchester United target James Rodriguez has reportedly been told he will be sold by Real Madrid if his behaviour doesn't improve. Los Blancos have spoken with the attacking midfielder's agent and offered a warning about the Colombian international's temperament.
Rodriguez may be a more realistic get for United than Madrid teammate Gareth Bale. The latter's recently revealed contract situation would complicate any deal between United and the Wales international.
Spanish source El Confidencial (h/t Metro's George Bellshaw) reported how Rodriguez has left Madrid's staff perturbed: "The Spanish giants have been unimpressed with the Colombian star’s behaviour and have threatened to sell him."
Earlier this week, Spanish website Fichajes.net (h/t Metro's Mark Brus) suggested the Red Devils are considering a £64.7 million bid for the 24-year-old. Madrid will be keen to take the money and run based on how Rodriguez has reportedly already fallen foul of new manager Zinedine Zidane.
Spanish publication Marca reported Zidane became angered when Rodriguez was reluctant to warm up during Real's recent league win over Sporting Gijon: "To the disbelief of Zidane, James sat back down on the bench when the second half kicked off. After making his disdain clear, the manager once again told James to go and warm up, before bringing him on to replace Isco on 60 minutes."
When motivated, Rodriguez certainly boasts the flair and guile United have missed in attack for much of this season. The former Porto man is a goal threat and a keen provider in the final third.
He shot to fame as one of the standout players of the 2014 FIFA World Cup:
Even in a down season, Rodriguez has still found the net five times and supplied six assists for Los Merengues, according to ESPN FC. United could definitely use some of those qualities in what has been a fairly static team under manager Louis van Gaal.
OptaJoe recently detailed how Van Gaal's United are no better than that of much-maligned predecessor David Moyes:
37 - Man Utd have 37 points from their opening 22 PL games this season, the same as after 22 games in 2013/14 under David Moyes. Memories.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 19, 2016
Putting Rodriguez behind the striker and getting the most out of this incredible talent would be a great way for Van Gaal to return some true attacking verve to the Reds.
But B/R's Dean Jones believes Rodriguez would be a bad fit at United, stating the Colombian is too much of a free spirit for Van Gaal's rigid structure. Jones also cites Madrid's potential transfer ban as a reason to believe Zidane will keep hold of his players, even the troubled ones:
Bale Buyback Clause Could End United Hopes
Any hope of luring Bale from Real Madrid in the summer could be scuppered by the Welsh forward's former club, Tottenham Hotspur. The north London side have "first refusal" on Bale, according to leaked paperwork, per the Guardian: "The six-page document, released by the website Football Leaks and widely published in Spain, set out details of the full value of the deal, which has always been disputed."
James Robson of the Manchester Evening News has revealed Spurs' head start in any bidding war for Bale: "There remains hope that Old Trafford would be his first choice if he leaves Spain - but a clause in the contract states that Spurs must be given 72 hours to match any bid for him from another Premier League club."
Robson also described how the prolific attacker is a "long-term target of United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward."
Signing Bale would be a massive coup for the Red Devils. He hasn't always lived up to his billing in the Spanish capital, but few forwards combine Bale's lightning pace, shooting power and aerial prowess.
Should United splash the cash on Bale?
He's the type of forward a team can build its entire attacking approach around.
United have the financial power to knock Spurs out of any negotiations. So if Bale is going to make a return to England's top flight, Old Trafford is still his most likely destination.
United fans want to see more expansive and attractive football. Signing two gifted attackers from Los Blancos would make that happen. But given the prices involved, expect one or the other to make the switch.