Alphonso Davies, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry (l-r.) are all all capable of plugging the holes left by James Rodriguez at Bayern Munich. - © Getty
Alphonso Davies, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry (l-r.) are all all capable of plugging the holes left by James Rodriguez at Bayern Munich. - © Getty

Why are Bayern Munich letting James Rodriguez return to Real Madrid?


Bayern Munich have decided not to make James Rodriguez's loan deal from Real Madrid permanent. Whilst the Colombian has lit up the Allianz Arena over the past two seasons, with 14 goals and just as many assists, there is plenty of talent left over at Bayern more than ready to plug the gap. picks out three ready-made alternatives...

Watch: The James Rodriguez Bundesliga Mixtape!

Thomas Müller

Thomas Müller doesn't have James' wand of a left foot, but he doesn't need it. The self-titled Raumdeuter is conceivably the most unique entity in world football - brilliant with the ball, even better without it.

He scored and assisted more goals than James in the Colombian's time at Bayern, albeit having played 18 Bundesliga games more, and has the chameleon-like ability to adapt to all manner of systems, comfortable as he is either on the right-hand side of the attack or through middle.

But above all, it's what he does when he's not taking or making chances that ultimately puts him top of the pecking order.

Whereas a more classic No.10 like James is measured on his end product in the final third, Müller brings a list of intangibles to the role - composure, tactical sensitivity and spatial awareness - that leave opposition players stupefied and teammates and coaches in awe.

The fact he nudged James out of the side during the latter part of 2018/19 lends weight to the theory, and he carries the quite remarkable record of never having lost a Bundesliga game in which he has found the back of the net (110 goals across 87 of his 318 league appearances!).

Who better to play off the shoulder of Robert Lewandowski?

Role reversal: Müller (l.) enjoyed regular first-team football in the latter half of 2018/19, at the expense of James (r.). - 2018 Getty Images

Serge Gnabry

Not just Müller, apparently! Serge Gnabry has barrelled his way into the Bayern starting line-up in his first season at the club, producing 10 goals in 30 Bundesliga outings.

In 2018/19, only Lewandowski scored more than Arsenal's One That Got Away, who also ranked an impressive fifth in terms of assists (five), behind Joshua Kimmich (13), Müller (nine), Lewy (seven) and Thiago Alcantara (six).

The former VfB Stuttgart academy graduate is being groomed as the natural long-term heir to Arjen Robben on the right wing, but he can also operate more centrally, just as James can alternate between causing havoc out wide and pulling the strings from a more central position.

Of Gnabry's 21 Bundesliga goals in season-long stints with Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim prior to 2018/19, 13 fell in games in which he started either in attacking midfield, as a second striker or centre-forward.

The same goes for eight of his nine pre-Bayern Bundesliga assists. It's also a role increasingly favoured by Germany coach Joachim Löw, so it's not like Gnabry will need a few games to dust off his strings if Bayern tactician Niko Kovac ever feels the need to push him inside.

Plan A (Gnabry the wide man) is deadly enough, but Plan B (Gnabry the middle man) is an equally frightening proposition.

Watch: What makes Serge Gnabry so good?

Alphonso Davies

As well as Müller and Gnabry, Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka are viable alternatives in James' preferred No.10 role, while the emergence of Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies ensures his secondary position on the left flank is well accounted for.

Unlike James, the 18-year-old is a winger by trade and, as things are shaping up, will be one of only three natural left footers in Bayern's first-team squad next season, along with David Alaba and inbound 2018 FIFA World Cup-winning defender Lucas Hernandez.

Davies shares an artistic originality with James, but his raw pace and gazelle-like forward runs make him a far more rounded fit in the wide areas.

He's happy on both flanks, and has the skill-set to thrive more centrally - should the need or want ever arise.

January signing Davies has creativity and pace in abundance. - imago/ActionPictures

It's not a task Davies is accustomed to, but that's never stopped Bayern. The record champions love a good remould after all; think Kimmich the midfielder-turned-right-back, who moonlighted at centre-half under Pep Guardiola...

Chris Mayer-Lodge