Will Galactico James Rodriguez spell disaster for Real Madrid?
Los Blancos have forked out £63m for a World Cup star who does not fit into their winning system
James Rodriguez was officially unveiled as Real Madrid's latest recruit in front 45,000 adoring fans at the Bernabeu on Tuesday. Columbia's World Cup sensation signed a six-year deal with the European champions after joining from Monaco for a fee of £63m, and his arrival marks the beginning of a new Galactico era in Madrid. But will the new generation of Bernabeu superstars be able to avoid the problems that their predecessors encountered?
Rodriguez is the fourth most expensive player ever after Gareth Bale (£86m), Cristiano Ronaldo (£80m) and Luis Suarez (£75m). Three of that quartet will be playing for Real next season.
The question now is whether Carlo Ancelotti can come up with a system to accommodate all three superstars as well as Madrid's talented supporting cast featuring Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and German World Cup winner Toni Kroos, who arrived for the comparatively modest fee of £24m last week.
Ancelotti can take some solace in the fact that Angel di Maria and Sami Khedira look likely to be offloaded this summer, though there are fears that their departure could disrupt Real's midfield balance.
Picking the team this season will be an unenviable task that could "drive the Italian mad", says Tim Collins of Bleacher Report.
A front three of Bale, Ronaldo and Rodriguez sounds formidable on paper, but it could prove impossible for Ancelotti to make them click, says Tom Sheen in The Independent.
Madrid excelled last season with a 4-3-3 system that wrought the best out of Bale and Ronaldo on the flanks and Benzema through the middle. And Ancelotti's side produced more goals than any other team in Europe on the way to Copa del Rey glory and a tenth European title – the fabled 'Decima'.
The arrival of Rodriguez, however, will force the Italian to "tinker with a formula that has already proven to be lethal", says Tom Collins of Bleacher Report. "He now has no alternative but to create a No10 role for Florentino Perez's shiny new acquisition."
The traditional No10 all but disappeared from Ancelotti's line-up last year – something Isco can attest to given his lack of playing time. Yet this was precisely the role in which Rodriguez thrived at the World Cup, picking up six goals and two assists.
Given his cost and quality, it seems "unlikely" Rodriguez will "suffer the same fate as Isco", says Sid Lowe in The Guardian. Instead it seems likely Ancelotti will revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Rodriguez playing in-behind Benzema and Ronaldo and Bale drifting in from each wing.
It's a fearsome foursome – but an attacking line of Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema and Rodriguez "isn't going to offer a ton of defensive support", says Timothy Rapp in Bleacher Report.
Factor-in the likely departure of Di Maria and Khedira, and Madrid's balance looks further lop-sided – a worry compounded by the dismal form of many Los Blancos defenders in Brazil.
Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos bowed-out in ignominious fashion with Spain, while Pepe suffered the disgrace of a straight red card against Germany, and as for poor Marcelo, scoring an own goal against Croatia was something of a high point for the hapless Brazilian.
With Madrid's defensive frailties in mind, the knock-on effect Rodriguez's signing could have on the area in front of the back four becomes even more concerning.
What Real Madrid could end up with, says Rapp, is an "unbalanced, over-priced, unmitigated disaster" reminiscent of the previous Galacticos.
"Back then a team including Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and David Beckham managed to win just one title and one Champions League", notes the Independent's Tom Sheen. ·