James Rodriguez: What next for Colombia forward and how has his star fallen since 2014?

Rodriguez linked with Arsenal and Tottenham in transfer window

James Rodriguez's future beyond this season is unclear
Image: James Rodriguez's future beyond this season is unclear

With reports linking James Rodriguez with a summer switch to north London, how did he go from being one of the hottest properties in world football to Real Madrid's forgotten man?

James, 27, is entering the final lap of his two-year loan deal at Bayern Munich and, although his time at the Allianz Arena has been far from disastrous, there is clearly plenty for the Colombia international to do to persuade the German side to take up the option of a €42m (£36.6m) permanent deal in the summer.

The player himself was optimistic last summer, with his seven goals and 11 assists in 23 league appearances proving crucial in helping Bayern to the Bundesliga title.

"The first season was very positive," he told fcbayern.com. "I want to win more trophies this season and be an important member of the team.

James celebrates scoring for Bayern against Wolfsburg
Image: James celebrates scoring for Bayern against Wolfsburg

"I'm very happy here, I'm only thinking about Bayern. It's a magnificent club and I can see myself staying here for longer."

But Bayern head coach Niko Kovac sounded less than convinced when he spoke to the media about James earlier in January, saying: "He is playing for his future without a doubt. Everyone who wants a contract needs to be at his best at all times."

Meanwhile, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic was not tripping over himself to suggest a deal would be done in the summer when he spoke to Bild.

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James Rodriguez has much to do to convince Bayern Munich to do a permanent deal for him in the summer
Image: James has much to do to convince Bayern Munich to do a permanent deal for him in the summer

"We're going to see what happens in the second half of the season and we will make the pertinent decisions," he said.

To be fair, the player himself is less than content with life in Munich now too, having become frustrated at his lack of playing time under Kovac this season. He was a late substitute in last Friday's 3-1 win over Hoffenheim and, after taking a ball to the face during Saturday's training for the reserves, he was given an extra day off training this week.

From a distance, it looks as if he has becoming increasingly marginalised at the Allianz.

So what has gone wrong? Why are two of Europe's biggest clubs apparently so reluctant to commit to such a talented player entering his prime? Why is he being spoken of as a makeweight in a potential deal for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen, or as a replacement for Arsenal's Mesut Ozil? In truth, it is a tale of bad luck, bad timing and of a player battling with astronomical expectations.

James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup
Image: James won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup

James entered the 2014 World Cup as Monaco's and Colombia's best player. He finished the tournament as one of the hottest properties in world football having seared into the consciousness of fans in Brazil with a series of brilliant performances.

His six goals were enough to win him the Golden Boot as Colombia reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out by the hosts, and his goal against Uruguay - a dipping volley on the turn from 25 yards - won the 2014 Puksas award.

While in Brazil, he spoke of a potential move from Monaco to Real Madrid as a "life's dream" - a dream that became reality on July 22, 2014, when he signed a six-year deal at the Bernabeu - his £63m price-tag making him then the fourth-most expensive player in history.

James Rodriguez made a promising start to his Real Madrid career
Image: James made a promising start to his Real Madrid career

He was given the No 10 shirt - following Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane - although it would be his relationship with the Frenchman that would lead to his departure three years later.

Still, at the time, the 23-year-old was overjoyed with the switch and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez followed with a speech of his own in welcoming James, a "lover" and "long supporter" of the club.

His first season under Carlo Ancelotti was promising, albeit hampered by injury. After scoring on his Champions League debut for the club in a 5-1 win over Basel, he then scored his first league goal a few days later in an 8-2 demolition of Deportivo La Coruna. He then scored twice in a 4-0 win at Granada, before breaking a bone in his right foot against Sevilla in February 2015.

James struggled for game time under Zinedine Zidane
Image: James struggled for game time under Zinedine Zidane

Subsequent surgery ruled him out for two months before returning on April 5 in a 9-1 thrashing of Granada. He ended the season with 13 goals and 13 assists in the league.

More bad luck followed at the end of the season with the sacking of Ancelotti and when a thigh injury then curtailed his involvement at the start of next season under Zidane, he struggled to get back into the first XI, adding just eight assists to his seven league goals as Real won the Champions League.

The 2017/18 season saw more frustration. His 11 goals and 13 assists were important as Real won La Liga and retained the Champions League, but he did not even make the bench for the final against Juventus in Cardiff.

Zidane's snub led him to request a switch away, and it seemed his luck was in, with a two-year loan deal at Bayern reuniting him with Ancelotti. It seemed the perfect match to reignite his career.

Carlo Ancelotti has twice been sacked soon after bringing James to a club
Image: Carlo Ancelotti has twice been sacked soon after bringing James to a club

But Ancelotti was sacked in September and replaced by Jupp Heynckes. Despite the upheaval - and another injury that stalled his introduction in Germany - his first season in the Bundesliga was productive, averaging a goal (7) or assist (11) every 92 minutes in 23 appearances.

But this season he has again been stymied by injury, missing the last eight games before the winter break after tearing a ligament in his knee.

He has since returned from that injury and, although frustrated at his lack of involvement recently, will surely have a role to play in the second half of the season - not least in the Champions League as the obvious replacement for the suspended Thomas Muller in the last-16 clash with Liverpool.

And a player of his quality with a point to prove can be dangerous. A run without injury and some good form between now and May could change Bayern's mind - perhaps even Madrid's. There is time for that star, so bright in 2014, to shine again.

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