On Tuesday, Bayern Munich signed James Rodriguez from Real Madrid on a two-year loan deal.
This transfer was a timely celebration for James, who made 26 a day later. But more importantly, this move does not appear to have been out of necessity, but born out of the urge to have a pop star on Bayern’s books.
That some teams just go out of their way to make a transfer for the sake of it is a mark of downright bad sporting decision-making. No doubt James is not only an incredibly good poster boy to have in your ranks (he can sell shirts and bring you a few more women in the stands), he has also got finesse. He is the true number 10.
But where will Carlo Ancelotti play him? There is no way James could have come in as backup. But in his favourite position, Thomas Muller, who did not play so much last season, hopes to get a chance; behind Robert Lewandowski. Remember, Muller being a German international, will demand playing time, to be in good shape for the World Cup in Russia next year.
Yet, as seen for much of last season, Ancelotti preferred a midfield trio of Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara and Xabi Alonso to having a specific individual playing off the centre-forward. That kept Muller out, for the two wide men, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben to play off either flank.
With Renato Sanches, newly-signed Frenchman Corentin Tolisso from Lyon and Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim all at Bayern, the latter should take the retired Alonso’s position. It is going to be a really difficult equation for James and Ancelotti to solve, which will cause dressing room acrimony.
This situation only points to one simple fact – football managers behave like fans. It is normally fans that will see their team having Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, Mateo Kovacic, Gareth Bale, Alvaro Morata, Isco and James Rodriguez on their books, yet still demand for the signing of Kylian Mbappe.
At least we have seen Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, do such a thing. Perez has fickleness about him, like when he ensured that Angel Di Maria was pushed out of Real Madrid to create room for James. But clearly, Ancelotti did not appear in support of this, especially after the season Di Maria had experienced, leading Real Madrid to winning the Uefa Champions League in 2014.
Now that is where Bayern is going. At least Arsene Wenger and, to a lesser extent, Sir Alex Ferguson and are two coaches who, in their coaching careers, never got compelled to sign players they did not need. All the same, Fergie made some unnecessary purchases along the way.
After winning the treble in 1999, and then getting destroyed by Real Madrid’s Fernando Redondo in 2000, he signed Juan Sebastian Veron in July 2001. It was probably to try and have his own Redondo, since Veron was also Argentine like the Real Madrid man.
However, Fergie ended up destabilizing his midfield quartet and forward line that had worked so well for him prior, save for just the one game. Fergie deserted his 4-4-2 for a 4-5-1, moving Paul Scholes into a number 10 role or on the left sometimes, if he did not bench him. This plot failed and eventually Veron left unfulfilled.
Similarly, after winning the Champions League in May 2008, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez had coined a good striking partnership, only for Fergie to disrupt it by bringing in Dimitar Berbatov in August 2008. Fergie messed up a good striking duo, which showed in his unclear formation during the 2009 Champions League final with Barcelona.
So, why don’t clubs and coaches learn that signing of players must be out of necessity, and not obsession. Actually, it is not true that every transfer window needs a new player.