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Bundesliga

Is James Rodriguez really the right fit for Bayern Munich?

There's no doubting James Rodriguez's pedigree, but Bayern Munich's newest recruit sometimes struggled to find a niche at Real Madrid. With plenty of competition at his new club, there are question as to how he fits.

In among the usual player-unveiling platitudes ("I'm happy to be here and hope to reach big things at Bayern") there was a moment in James Rodriguez's first Bayern press conference on Wednesday when he was asked about his best position.

"I'll play wherever the coach wants me to play," he answered. "I can play on the left, on the right or as a number 10. I must fight for my place in this team."

Initially this response may look like one more to add to the platitude pile, but the answer also spoke to two of the doubts that some Bundesliga observers have about the loan signing: Where will he play? And who will he replace?

Reunion with Ancelotti may bear fruit

The Colombian crashed in to Real on a wave of hype after his stunning performances at World Cup 2014. In that season, under then Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, he lived up to it, notching up 17 goals and 18 asssists in his 46 appearances, which came largely in the playmaking role.

Carlo Ancelotti und James Rodriguez Real Madrid (picture alliance/dpa/E.Naranjo)

Carlo Ancelotti and James Rodriguez have worked well together in the past

His reunion with the Italian has been much discussed, with Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge saying Rodriguez was Ancelotti's "biggest wish." But an attempt to recreate those Madrid days may involve a tweak to a side who motored along fairly well last year, albeit falling short of that elusive Champions League win.

Bayern didn't really operate with a true number 10 last year, with Thiago - their superb schemer-in-chief - operating from a slightly deeper role and with a greater regard to positional discipline. Thiago could operate deeper - alongside Arturo Vidal or Sebastian Rudy - but even that wouldn't guarantee the Colombian minutes - not while Thomas Müller remains on the scene.

Replacement for Robben?

Over his career, Ancelotti has generally preferred to operate with inverted wingers - Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery with Bayern, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with Real Madrid. But as a left-footer much more comfortable cutting in from the right, Rodriguez' has some stiff competition.

Robben may be 33, and the Colombian may be his long term successor, but the Dutchman was close to his best last year - averaging a goal or assist every 76 minutes in the Bundesliga. Another summer signing, Kingsley Coman, is also more comfortable on that flank.

Perhaps the imminent departure of Douglas Costa might open up a spot on the left, where Ribery looks ever-so-slightly more mortal than Robben, but it's not a position where Rodriguez has shone before.

The Colombian should be used to a level of adversity after managing to make a significant impact from limited minutes in his last two years at Madrid before being omitted from the Champions League final squad. He may have to draw on that strength and patience to break in to a team with such a devastating array of attacking weapons - but he has the talent to do it.

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