Record German football champions Bayern Munich are hoping for the “Robben effect” after Colombian forward James Rodriguez on Thursday joined the club on loan from Real Madrid for two seasons. Like James, Robben, who joined Bayern in 2009, was unhappy on the bench in Spain’s capital, but while in Munich developed into one of Europe’s best in the following years.
Head coach Carlo Ancelotti is convinced that James will improve Bayern’s quality. The Italian expects the 26-year-old to return to top form in Munich after Real coach Zinedine Zidane ignored him in previous months. He even was excluded from the squad for the recent Champions League final, reports Xinhua news agency.
While the James deal could cost Bayern up to 48 million euros ($55 million), the club wants to benefit from the Colombian’s good worldwide reputation. The new player will attract more fans, said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, especially in South America and China.
James was one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The move to Bayern has already generated enormous interest in the Bavarian club, which announced that social media and homepage hits have risen significantly as Bayern spoke about figures in the hundreds of thousands. Rummenigge said James would have an outstanding effect on the club’s international image.
James himself is said to have earned over 16 million euros ($18.33 million) on his social media platform as one of the most popular figures in international football. Only superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi und Neymar (Barcelona) can beat Rodriguez when it comes to follower figures on social media channels. A total of 32.1 million are said to follow him only on Instagram. In comparison, Bayern Munich spearhead Robert Lewandowski has only 9.9 million followers. In Madrid, James’s shirt was the top seller.
But James is not only a blessing for Bayern’s marketing managers but for Bayern coach Ancelotti as well. The Italian star coach has long expressed his wishes of signing him. Now, Rummenigge has called the deal a bargain as international transfer fees have exploded. For the two-year loan period, Bayern will pay 10 million euros ($11.46). The additional three years (should the German club decide to keep James) will cost an additional 38 million euros ($43 million). Real Madrid paid $80 million when signing Rodriguez in 2014. Only 23 at the time, he had already won the trophy for the top scorer at the World Cup (with six goals). After the World Cup, Rodriguez had turned into an international superstar.
Despite the high price tag of Bayern’s recent investments (including Corentin Tolisso for $47 million from Olympique Lyon), Rummenigge said James might not be the last new signing this summer.
Joerg Wacker, Bayern’s director of international strategy, called James a dream from a merchandising point of view. The former Monaco and Porto star is another cornerstone in Bayern Munich’s attempt to gain lost ground in the global race contested by the top international clubs. Wacker said internationalization was a must for football clubs if they want to remain a part of the world’s elite for the long term.
Fans and club officials in Munich are pleased with Bayern’s latest addition, as is Ancelotti. Both coach and James have best memories when working together at Real Madrid in the 2014/2015 season. Ancelotti was impressed by James’ skills, so much so that he picked the player 46 times. The coach has kept an eye on him ever since.
James will likely increase competition among the midfielders and strikers in Munich, and the deal puts Ancelotti under additional pressure. More than ever, the Italian will have to deliver titles and keep his squad of stars happy. Reports say not all in Munich’s squad are pleased about Ancelotti’s excitement regarding the James deal.
Stars like Thiago Alacantara, Arturo Vidal, Tolisso, Franck Ribery, Robben, Thomas Mueller, Renato Sanches, Kingsley Coman and Sebastian Rudy will battle for a place in the starting eleven. As James is not a man for the flanks, the Colombian will almost certainly play in central midfield, most likely behind Lewandowski in a 4-2-3-1 system. For Thiago, that means he will have to move further back and for Mueller, he could well have to content himself with a place on the bench.
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