Manchester United have all but missed out on a top four finish, one that would give them a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014/15 but as we all know by now they have one last ace up their sleeve. That of course being the Europa League Final and the backdoor entry it gives to Europe’s top club competition should they go on and beat Ajax later this month.
With Jose Mourinho focusing on all things continental for the next fortnight once that hurdle is either cleared or clattered into then the next focus is what is undoubtedly going to be another busy Summer of transfer activity at Old Trafford.
There’s no secret that United have been long time admirers of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann with a reported transfer fee of £100m and a weekly wage of 300k on the table but they could also be looking across the Spanish capital to capture another world class talent.
That being the Colombian international James Rodriguez. James moved to the Bernabeu after an impressive showing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and after lighting up the tournament it was only a matter of time before a big money move from Monaco was completed.
His first season in Spain started brightly with 13 goals from 29 La Liga appearances and more often than not he was one of Carlo Ancelotti’s starting eleven. But his game time has slightly diminished in the two seasons since Rafa Benitez and then Zinedine Zidane have been in charge of Los Blancos.
As is always the case Real have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal and it is a case of not being able to fit all the talented superstars into the first team. It’s not a reflection on the talent of the James Rodriguez it just shows how high the pecking order is in Zinedine Zidane’s squad.
More often than not the 25 year old has had to make do with a peripheral role in the Madrid squad this season, but even then he has chipped in with 8 goals as they look set to win their first league title since the 2011/12 campaign when United boss Jose Mourinho was in charge.
James Rodriguez nearly endeared himself to the Bernabeu faithful for life last month when he thought he had scored a dramatic El Clasico equaliser late on after coming on as a substitute. But Lionel Messi’s injury time winner showed there was still time for one late twist in the tale.
That though showed just what an impact the Colombian can have when afforded minutes on the pitch, but for the former Porto midfielder those minutes are not quite enough in what are undoubtedly the peak years of what is already a blossoming career.
So could Jose Mourinho offer the perfect exit and not only that regular first team football. Zinedine Zidane will obviously be loathed to lose someone of this calibre but at the same time will understand the burning desire James has to play week in week out.
And that unfortunately is not something that he can guarantee at Madrid. Such is the amount of talent that Zidane can play virtually two sides to absolutely no detriment to results as was proved in the 4-0 win over Tony Adams’ Granada last Saturday.
But the problem that brings is that it is difficult to not only give them all the necessary amount of game time but also keeping the squad happy and James is a perfect example of this. It would be unfair to say he is itching for a move but he certainly feels he should be playing with more regularity.
Like with Griezmann any possible move will no doubt hinge on whether United do win the Europa League in less than a fortnights time. If that does prove to be the case then swapping Madrid for Manchester certainly comes more appealing as Mourinho looks for the players to spearhead a proper tilt at the title next season.