With the signing of Colombian superstar James Rodriguez for current Champions League winners Real Madrid practically done, the question now lies on where the top scorer of the World Cup will fit in Carlo Ancelottis lineup puzzle.
The former Oporto starlet didnt have the best season with Monaco, after the French team paid 45 million for his transfer, but a superb World Cup with his National Team of Colombia, and 6 goals in the best tournament in the planet, have made Real Madrid be willing to pay up to 80 million euro for his transfer.
The problem now sits on Carlo Ancelottis desk at Valdebebas.
James Rodriguez is an old-fashioned number 10, an attacking midfielder or a creative mid, depending on how you want to describe it. He is versatile enough to have played on the wing (both of them) and even as a second forward, behind a killer the likes of Falcao or Hulk, but all of those positions are either taken or dont exist on Ancelottis preferred tactical view.
After many trials last season, the Italian head coach decided to move forward with a 4-3-3, which could turn into a more classical 4-4-2 when it was time to drop back and secure a score board.
On both of those options, the wings were taken by the team’s galacticos: Ronaldo and Bale. In the 4-3-3, the number 10 spot does not actually exist, with Modric and Di Maria playing the midfielder roles in the widest sense of the word: they were both true box-to-box, coming and going during the minutes, and balancing the lack of defensive attitude that the trio of attackers (Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema) showed in each of Real Madrids games.
Argentine Di Maria made it quite clear last season that in order to continue in the team he would need to see his salary doubled this year, and the club has not been willing to accommodate to his demands. Not even his crucial performances in all of the key matches the team played last year, as well as an outstanding World Cup with his national team, have made the board of directors at Bernabeu change his mind with regards to the former Benfica star.
Di Maria will leave the team this summer and the money of his transfer around 60 million euroswill help mitigate the high price paid for James, but the spot he will leave vacant on the field will most likely not be covered by the Colombian.
Would James Rodriguez play on the wing or in the middle?
Real Madrid have already signed Toni Kroos, the best midfielder in the World Cup and perhaps the best player overall regardless of FIFAs decision to award Lionel Messi with the Golden Ball of the tournament. Ancelotti would love nothing else that to keep Di Maria on his squad, but he was clear his place in the middle needed to be covered by a specialist this season, and no one better than Kroos to do so.
James Rodriguez could team up with Kroos in the middle, but there are two important factors working against that option: the first one is that the Colombian would need to commit a lot more on defense in order to help a very offensive team find some balance Ancelottis favorite word, by the way. The second one is that if James were to play in the middle with Kroos, Luke Modric would lose his starting spot, and the Croatian is one of the few players that Carlo Ancelotti believes in when it comes to adjusting the needs of the team defensively.
Up front, either on the wings or as a forward, James Rodriguez would be out of place, and it seems tough to imagine Ancelotti making any changes in a forward lineup that last season seemed to work like a well-oiled machine see the Schalke 04-Real Madrid match of the round 16 of the Champions League for further prove of this.
Ancelotti probably sees this as a great problem to have, and he may as well have more great players to choose from than less, but it wont be easy to fit all those egos into a locker room, nevertheless into a starting lineup.
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Surely the Italian manager has an idea of what his team will look like next season, and surely it involves James Rodriguez as a starter, as Real Madrid would not spend 80 million euro in a player that will sit on the bench most of the season.
If someone can find a creative way to turn this around thats Ancelotti, who showed how he could masterfully manage a winning squad last season and who probably has an ace up his sleeve to make James Rodriguez fit into the ever evolving puzzle that is Real Madrids starting lineup.