James had signed for Ligue 1 side AS Monaco from FC Porto in summer 2013, but though he had been singled out as a precocious talent, it was not until he shone for Colombia in Brazil that the world sat up and paid notice.
His stunning volley against Uruguay as he helped his nation reach the quarter-finals made him a household name, and helped earn him a move to Real Madrid.
The switch to the Spanish capital turned sour, though, with James more on the bench than on the pitch, but since his summer 2017 arrival at Bayern, he has been given the chance to perform.
The 26-year-old has delivered spectacularly, which augurs well for both club and country ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Watch: All James' Bundesliga goals and assists
"I'm at the same level I was [in 2014]. I played well because in that year I was playing regularly too," explained James, who featured in all but four of Monaco’s Ligue 1 games in the season before the World Cup.
"In France, I was playing, now at Bayern I’m always playing and I think that’s good to arrive [at a World Cup] with a good rhythm."
With first-team football hard to come by under Zinedine Zidane in Madrid, James boldly took the plunge to join Bayern on a two-year loan deal that has paid off handsomely for both the player and the Bundesliga leaders.
Four goals, including a delicious free-kick against Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 18, and seven assists in 17 league outings have underscored the fact the artful attacking midfielder has lost none of his qualities after emerging from the doldrums at Real, where he feels he learned a valuable lesson.
"What the not-so-good moments gave me at Real Madrid, I think they helped me grow," he explained. "With time you learn to be calmer. I always want to be good, but with the time you also learn to be calm."