"Sorry I've just been that good" James Rodriguez has scored seven goals and provided his 11 assists in the Bundesliga this season. - © © imago
"Sorry I've just been that good" James Rodriguez has scored seven goals and provided his 11 assists in the Bundesliga this season. - © © imago

Bayern Munich's James Rodriguez: A debut Bundesliga season to remember


Just when you thought Bayern Munich could not get any better, along came James Rodriguez.

The Colombia star has pulled more strings than a White House strategist and done so with the skill of a symphony violinist to orchestrate a brilliant Bundesliga title-winning season.

bundesliga.com turns the spotlight on his wildly successful first top-flight campaign in Germany.

Season in a nutshell

His talent was never in question — anyone who saw THAT volley at the 2014 FIFA World Cup knew better than to ask — but after two years of turmoil at Real Madrid, how badly had James' belief in his own game-altering ability been damaged?

The 26-year-old had a point to prove, and he knew it. Although he arrived short of match sharpness and fitness when he arrived at Bayern last summer, he wasted little time in sweeping away the doubts.

With two goals and as many assists, including two in the Matchday 11 Klassiker win over Borussia Dortmund, in his opening six games, you did not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out who would be one of the chief culprits in helping Bayern claim yet more Meisterschale swag: James Rodriguez, on the pitch, with sheer unadulterated, untainted talent.

Watch: All James' Bundesliga goals and assists so far

Guilty as charged, he rode the bump of Carlo Ancelotti's removal — his former Madrid boss had been the chief strategist in his extraction from Spain — and strode forward unchecked, helped significantly by Jupp Heynckes' Spanish skills. "He's a coach that speaks a lot to his players," James explained. "That's very positive for me."

No doubt their relationship was helped by Heynckes' own painful experience in the Spanish capital. Himself a victim of the cutthroat Madrid ethos — the reward for his debut 1997/98 UEFA Champions League-winning season was the sack — the Bayern boss quickly squeezed the creme de la creme out of his South American charge, playing him as a 'number 10' or even in an unfamiliar deeper role as an Eight.

Five of his seven league goals and eight of James' 11 assists have come in ten devastating Rückrunde displays. But for a calf injury that forced him to miss four matches in the second half of the season, you wonder how much more quickly might Bayern have clinched the title?


Key stats

Eight minutes in two matches, followed by none at all in the next three. That was the total of James' time on the pitch in Madrid's last five UEFA Champions League ties of last season. The fact he featured in every single European tie for Bayern in 2017/18 is just one indicator of how far the man who was in a suit, not even a tracksuit, for Madrid's final win over Juventus in Cardiff last May has come in the space of less than a season.

Eight goals and 14 assists in 37 competitive outings would be a healthy return even for someone not needing to adapt to a new club and country, while only two men, team-mate Thomas Müller and Augsburg's assist king Philipp Max, have teed up more Bundesliga goals this season.

What they're saying

"At Real Madrid, he wasn't getting the game time that a player of his calibre deserves. You get the feeling he is happy in Munich, which is something because it's not easy adapting to a new country, culture, language and way of life." - Heynckes

"We're totally happy with his development, especially since Jupp Heynckes became our coach again. It was a very, very good transfer." - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern CEO

"I played in a similar position at Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane. In this position, I can create more. I feel comfortable in different roles, which is great, because Colombia coach Jose Pekerman likes me to play further forward, as a second striker or a left winger." - James on adapting his position to Bayern's needs

"He is playing well, but he can play better. I've told him how I think he can improve." - Heynckes

Watch: Will James make it into your FIFA 18 Bundesliga Team of the Season?

What's next?

Bayern fans can enjoy him in action for his country at the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer before he returns for the start of a new era at the Allianz Arena.

A change of coach has not always been kind to James — Ancelotti's replacement at Madrid by Rafael Benitez was the beginning of the end for him at the Santiago Bernabeu — but surely Niko Kovac's arrival at Bayern holds few fears for him.

The 2018/19 season will be the second of his two-year loan, but if he plays to anything like the standard he has shown in the current campaign, there is little danger of the Bundesliga champions not taking up the bargain basement €42 million option they have on him.

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