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James Rodriguez & Man Utd: Why Mourinho wants this deal

COMMENT: What's Jose Mourinho doin'? James Rodriguez? Where's he going to fit? Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard... even Antoine Griezmann. It's overkill, right?

No. This is archetypal Mou. After muddling through this season, trying to force square pegs into round holes, James is another piece in the ideal Mourinho jigsaw - and his arrival from Real Madrid will have no bearing on negotiations with Atletico Madrid for Griezmann. The United manager, after a year of assessment, is now determined to bring together players capable of fitting into his ideal system.

A centre-forward and three energetic, nimble No10s working around him. It's always been Mourinho's MO. And he's not about to change now.

And in terms of attackers, Mourinho will need a centre-forward. It was to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but as he confirmed in the aftermath of the Swede's knee setback, "this has changed everything". Those reports of a £200 million-plus summer spend aren't the stuff of speculation. The manager's focus this transfer window will be getting his attacking options in place.

James should be the first through the door. In Colombia, they say we can expect an announcement before Monday. Real want to delay any confirmation until after the Champions League final, but with the relationship between player and club at such a low ebb, James couldn't care less. An agreement with United, courtesy of super agent Jorge Mendes, has been in place for weeks. And the midfielder wants an end to the speculation.

London has also been floated as a possible option for the Colombian - though that's coming from Fleet Street. Even the family angle no longer carries weight, with brother-in-law David Ospina about to jump ship from Arsenal for Turkey.

In Bogota, they're convinced James is joining Mourinho's United. Indeed, Tribalfootball.com has learned from a government source, no less, that the expectation will be he's going to Old Trafford.

"Sevilla was his last game (for Real Madrid)," stated the source, "I can't confirm it, but it does look like his next home will be Manchester."

This has been a long break up. You could say it's been two years in the making. The last real flashpoint came in Japan when James, having been snubbed - again - by coach Zinedine Zidane for Club World Cup selection, went off script, declaring to any reporter within earshot of the mixed zone: "I want to play more, there are offers and I have seven days to think about it ..."

Upon their return to Madrid, Zidane summoned James to his office. Grievances were aired. Assurances given. And James decided against demanding a January transfer. But six months on - for James - Zidane's assuring words were empty gestures. He's fed up. Frustrated. He even feels betrayed.

But Real Madrid and James Rodriguez has never been a good fit. At least, not since Real president Florentino Perez showed Carlo Ancelotti the door two years ago. It was under the now Bayern Munich coach James played his best football in a Merengues shirt. Indeed, some of the best stuff of his career. Ancelotti found room for the Colombian and played to his strengths. But with his sacking, so went James' status. Rafa Benitez arrived and immediately overhauled the midfield to include the recalled Casemiro, at the expense of James, in a more workmanlike setup. And even when he was dumped, James' situation showed no signs of improving under Zidane. From 44 starts under Ancelotti, James' record has diminished to barely 16 this season with Zidane. The Frenchman, like Benitez before him, simply doesn't rate him.

Which is a frustration for Florentino, who has been the Colombia captain's biggest ally inside the club. The creator of the Galacticos, Florentino knows what a successful James could do for Real's profile across the Americas - and to their bank balance. He spent €80 million ferrying James away from AS Monaco convinced he was signing the next great No10. But after his Ancelotti intervention, the deal has looked disastrous.

And there's no shortage of directors and confidants telling Florentino where it's all gone wrong. The selection dilemma is one thing, but James hasn't helped himself with his behaviour off the pitch. For many stalwarts inside the boardroom, his sale can't come soon enough.

Leading local police in a high speed chase all the way to the Valdebebas training ground was embarrassing, but Florentino waved away the protests. Defying club doctors and skipping shoulder surgery to party with friends and family was insulting, but the president was steadfast. But to openly declare he wanted to leave while on tour in Japan... well that was the final straw. For Florentino, no-one leaves Real Madrid.

Despite that meeting with Zidane, the die was cast. The airbrushing was underway. Unlike last season, there was no James for the Fly Emirates promotion. Those playing guarantees from Zidane soon proved the stuff of fantasy. The Colombian knew there was no way back.

And having a front row seat to all this was Mourinho. Courtesy of Mendes, the United manager knows every frustration, every slight, that James has felt over the last six months. With Mendes desperate to work his way ahead of Mino Raiola and back into United's plans, Mourinho basically has first refusal.

Headstrong? Yes. Outspoken? Oh yeah. But Mourinho knows all this. Via Mendes, he'll know James better than the player knows himself. And for all the mischief, the manager also knows United will be getting a character he can work with.

A national team captain. A genuine, world class talent. And also someone with a grudge, with a determination to prove his critics wrong. James Rodriguez is definitely one for the Mourinho system.



Read more:

James Rodriguez & Man Utd: What they say about the Real Madrid firebrand

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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