Karl-Heinz Rummenigge Talks Permanent Bayern Munich Deal for James Rodriguez

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2019

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: James Rodriguez of Bayern Muenchen looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Liverpool and FC Bayern Muenchen at Anfield on February 19, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

James Rodriguez's chances of staying at Bayern Munich beyond this season have received a boost after a glowing endorsement from club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The 63-year-old told Munchner Abendzeitung (h/t Goal): "I strongly believe that he will play for FC Bayern next season. I am still a big fan of James and I am sure that coach Kovac sees his qualities the way I do and that he is very happy with him. We have to use the option before June 15. I have to make it clear that everybody here is happy with him."

The timeframe Rummenigge laid out gives Die Roten more opportunities to ponder whether Rodriguez is worth the €42 million it would cost to take him away from Real Madrid on a permanent basis.

While there's no denying his talents, the Colombia international has been typically mercurial during his extended loan stint away from the Spanish capital. Rodriguez joined Bayern in 2017, no doubt encouraged by the chance to reunite with then-manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Rodriguez was briefly reunited with Ancelotti when he initially moved to Munich almost two years ago.
Rodriguez was briefly reunited with Ancelotti when he initially moved to Munich almost two years ago.Felix Hoerhager/Associated Press

The Italian signed Rodriguez for Real back in 2014 following his stunning performances at that year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Yet the former Porto and Monaco ace has never hit the same heights since.

Ancelotti was sacked during last season, with familiar favourite Jupp Heynckes coming in as a temporary replacement. Niko Kovac eventually got the job in the summer after an impressive spell with Eintracht Frankfurt.

It's surprising Rummenigge would say ex-Bayern midfielder Kovac is "very happy" with Rodriguez. There were rumours earlier in the campaign the South American hadn't warmed to the 47-year-old's tactics.

Things have changed dramatically for the better since then, though, with the natural No. 10 becoming a key part of Kovac's team.

Rodriguez has started the last seven games in Germany's top flight, a run Bayern have collected 16 points from to close the gap on Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table.

Kovac has gradually been won over by Rodriguez's talents.
Kovac has gradually been won over by Rodriguez's talents.TF-Images/Getty Images

Die Roten are now level on points with Dortmund but still trail the leaders on goal difference.

Rodriguez has lent creativity and flexibility to Kovac's team during the recent revival, according to the Bundesliga's official website:

"Aside from his well-documented ability to slice a ball through a Bundesliga defence like a hot knife through butter—he boasts a pass completion rate of 87.5 per cent—James possesses remarkable tactical intelligence, easily adapting to the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 systems favoured by Kovac. He hasn't been shirking his defensive responsibilities either, winning over half of his challenges, while his set pieces are delivered with laser-like precision."

While he has allowed Kovac the freedom to tweak Bayern's tactical shape depending on the game, Rodriguez, who can also operate on either flank, has most often played in his preferred spot just behind the striker.

It's where he's playing for Saturday's match at home to Wolfsburg:

Goal @goal

Bayern Munich have confirmed their XI to face Wolfsburg 🔴⚪️ David Alaba and Kingsley Coman remain injured 🤕 Will the Bavarians take top spot this afternoon? 🤔 #FCBWOB https://t.co/iPSjmWpFFe

Operating as a true No. 10 not only puts Rodriguez closer to prolific centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, it also allows him to use his vision and flair to add a flourish to Bayern's approach play between the midfield and forward lines.

International Champions Cup @IntChampionsCup

James Rodríguez is making more open play key passes (2.36) per 90 than any other Bundesliga midfielder 👏 @FCBayernUS ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #FCBayern https://t.co/kJYCPhHg0Q

Numbers as impressive as these make it hardly surprising Bayern officials are suddenly keen to keep Rodriguez at the Allianz Arena beyond the terms of his loan deal. For the season, he has three league goals and as many assists to his credit, as well as an assist from four appearances in the UEFA Champions League.

Keeping him is also important because the Bayern squad may undergo key changes in forward areas this summer. Wing duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are expected to move on.

Robben confirmed he will leave Bayern at the end of the season, and The Independent's Ed Malyon linked the 35-year-old with FC Tokyo and a return to former club PSV Eindhoven.

There have also been doubts about Ribery's future amid reports Bayern have stalled on offering the 35-year-old Frenchman a new contract, per Goal's Joe Wright.

Die Roten have the strength in depth to help prepare for life without two players who are among the most influential in club history.

Kingsley Coman is a dynamic alternative, while ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry is growing into his role as a first-teamer:

FC Bayern English @FCBayernEN

BREAKING: @SergeGnabry has signed a new contract with #FCBayern until 2023! ✍️ #MiaSanMia 🔴⚪ https://t.co/MdmVrkhvu3

Bundesliga English @Bundesliga_EN

Contract extension at @FCBayernEN ✍️ @SergeGnabry #Serge2023⚡ https://t.co/7Z4g2WU3r2

Putting Rodriguez between Coman and Gnabry would give Bayern an exciting supporting trio able to keep Lewandowski supplied with chances, as well as easing the scoring burden on the Poland international.