James still has point to prove at Bayern Munich
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 27, 2018 09:15 AM
Bayern's James, center, is challenged by Real Madrid's Daniel Carvajal, back, and Luka Modric, right, during the semifinal first leg soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press
MUNICH (AP) — James Rodriguez was all fired up.
The Bayern Munich midfielder pumped his arms urging the fans for more support after taking the lead against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
It was a special game for James, a Madrid player on loan at Bayern, where he's likely to stay because Bayern has an option to make his move permanent next year.
The crowd responded to his call with a roar to help the team push for more.
Unfortunately for the Colombia midfielder, Madrid came back to score twice and turn the series in its favor with a 2-1 win, leaving Bayern at a disadvantage for the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Tuesday.
James, who didn't speak to reporters after the game, must have felt he had a point to prove after a frustrating three-year spell in Madrid.
It started well enough after the Spanish club paid Monaco a reported 80 million euros ($108 million) for the then 22-year-old in 2014, after he captured the world's attention with his spectacular goal for Colombia against Uruguay at the World Cup.
But James struggled for playing time under Zinedine Zidane, who took over as Madrid coach in 2015. Perhaps his biggest disappointment came when he was left out of Madrid's squad altogether for the Champions League final against Juventus last year, as the team defended its title without him.
Despite a fine haul of honors - two Champions League medals, two FIFA Club World Cup titles and a Spanish league title - James was unhappy, and he asked Madrid for a transfer so he could get more playing time.
"I never wanted that James left. He wanted to play more and I understood that. I never had a problem with James," Zidane said at the pre-match news conference on Tuesday. "He doesn't have to prove anything. Anyone who thinks I have something against James is wrong. He's a great player."
Bayern provided James an escape. The 26-year-old Colombian made a slow, injury-hampered start under Carlo Ancelotti, whom he knew from his first season in Madrid, but he rediscovered his old form under Jupp Heynckes, who took over as Bayern coach for his fourth stint in October.
"I knew James from Spain and from the Colombian team's games," Heynckes said before Bayern's quarterfinal match against Sevilla. "He wasn't fit when I came to Bayern in October. He's gotten better step-by-step. We've also spoken a lot together. By now he has great trust in me, a player like him needs that. Today he's another player."
Against Borussia Dortmund recently, James scored one goal and set up two as he led Bayern on a 6-0 rout. Altogether he has six goals and 10 assists in 21 league games.
Against Madrid on Wednesday, he was only able to show flashes of his brilliance as he got the nod to play over Thiago Alcantara. He set Joshua Kimmich on his way for Bayern's goal and whipped in a dangerous free kick for Robert Lewandowski to go close.
After Franck Ribery, James was Bayern's most fouled player, while he managed to complete 69 of his 76 pass attempts - a rate of 91 percent.
With Ribery, Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller all missing good chances, perhaps it would have been better for James to try his luck. But Bayern showed that Madrid has defensive frailties even with Sergio Ramos back in the side, and the Colombian might get another chance to shine in Madrid on Tuesday.
Either way, it seems certain that Bayern will take up its option.
"We have clear conditions in the contracts with Real Madrid - a two-year loan deal and then an option to buy for 42 million euros ($51 million) that we have to take up. We're not in any hurry," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "We're completely satisfied within James' development, especially since Jupp Heynckes is coach. It was a very good transfer."