Unloved at Real Madrid, yet declared a “godsend” by Bayern Munich, James Rodriguez has rebooted his stuttering career in Bavaria and is set to shine again in the Champions League.
In his preferred attacking midfield role, Rodriguez is set to face Besiktas on Tuesday in the first leg of the last-16 tie at Munich’s Allianz Arena.
In Germany, the Colombia international has rediscovered the form which saw him light up the 2014 World Cup and finish as the competition’s top scorer.
Working alongside veteran head coach Jupp Heynckes has rejuvenated the 26-year-old after three challenging seasons at Real, where he fell out of favour under Zinedine Zidane.
Real paid Monaco 75 million euros ($93 million) in the wake of his dazzling displays in Brazil four years ago, but the Spanish giants shipped him out to Bayern on a two-year loan deal last June.
It is a move that will actually cost Bayern only 13 million euros over two seasons, and one that is reaping rich rewards with Rodriguez the provider of six assists and four goals in 16 Bundesliga games.
He has found a consistency in Bayern’s attack that only surfaced sporadically while exiled out on the wing at the Bernabeu.
His fortunes took off in Munich last October when Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti.
“He’s playing in a position he never played at Real Madrid,” said Heynckes.
Fish in water
“In Spain, he was playing on the left wing or right wing, but I’m playing him in an attacking middle position.
“Here he is like a fish in water.”
Rodriguez was instrumental when Bayern beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in December to avenge the 3-0 away defeat which cost Ancelotti his job.
He wreaked havoc alongside Corentin Tolisso in the centre of the park and set up the Frenchman’s second goal, although Bayern still finished second in the group.
Rodriguez has also shone in Bundesliga wins against Bayern’s main rivals — scoring against RB Leipzig, Schalke and Leverkusen while providing two assists against Borussia Dortmund.