Champions League

James Rodriguez - Bayern Munich's 'godsend'

2018-02-19 18:36
James Rodriguez Bayern (Getty Images).

Berlin - 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 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 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.

"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.

He scored a superb free-kick in the 3-1 win at Leverkusen in January and capped a man-of-the-match performance with a goal in a 2-0 victory at Mainz at the start of the month.

"His development has been outstanding," said Bayern defender Mats Hummels. "He is always a weapon 25 metres in front of goal. He has a brutally good left foot."

Rodriguez is Heynckes's favourite midfielder, starting 12 of his 13 league games since October, and the 72-year-old -- a Spanish speaker himself after managing Real Madrid -- can also take some credit for helping Rodriguez settle into his new surroundings.

"In his current form and how he has integrated, James is a godsend for Bayern Munich," Heynckes said.

"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, because it's not easy when someone comes into a new country, culture, language and way of life.

"He is playing well, but he can play better and I have told him personally how I think he can improve."

Heynckes has made it clear that he wants Rodriguez to roam the space behind Bayern's top scorer Robert Lewandowski, encouraged to shoot more and take risks.

"He realises that he's allowed to make mistakes and that it's not a reflection of his performance if he's taken off," added Heynckes.

The Colombian's hard work in training and on the pitch has impressed Bayern's coach.

"James is generous and many people do not see how much he runs, how much he saves himself for the defensive work in the service of the team," said Heynckes.

Bayern are 19 points clear in the Bundesliga and have won 22 of their 23 games since Heynckes took charge.

Now Rodriguez sees the Bavarian giants as one of the top teams in Europe.

"Bayern is my favourite to win the Champions League," the Colombian said. "We have a super team with top players. Why shouldn't we win the Champions League?"

And there is no talk of returning to Madrid.

"Bayern is fantastic, I'm happy and I can imagine myself playing for many more years here," he added.


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Tuesday, 02 October 2018
Juventus v Young Boys, Allianz Stadium 18:55
Hoffenheim v Manchester City, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 18:55
Bayern Munchen v Ajax, Allianz-Arena 21:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Shakhtar Donetsk, Groupama OL Academy Decines-Charpieu 21:00
Manchester United v Valencia, Old Trafford 21:00
AEK Athens v Benfica, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 21:00
Roma v Viktoria Plzen, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
CSKA Moskva v Real Madrid, VEB Arena 21:00
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PSG v Crvena Zvezda, Parc des Princes 18:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Schalke 04, RZD Arena 18:55
Porto v Galatasaray, Estadio Do Dragao 21:00
Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:00
PSV v Internazionale, Philips Stadion 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Napoli v Liverpool, Stadio San Paolo 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Barcelona, Wembley Stadium 21:00
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
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Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
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