Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti rubbished suggestions on Tuesday that James Rodriguez was signed to replace misfiring German international Thomas Muller.
The Colombian last week joined the Bundesliga champions from Real Madrid on a two-year loan that some have interpreted as a threat to Muller, who is coming off the back of a poor season by his high standards.
Rodriguez too has something to prove after losing his place at Real, and Ancelotti – who managed him in Spain – expects the 26-year-old to hit the ground running. Rodriguez gives the Italian coach a broad range of options in midfield and attack.
But speaking in Shanghai on the eve of a pre-season glamour friendly with Arsenal and with Mueller next to him, Ancelotti told a press conference: “Of course we did not buy James to replace Thomas Muller. It’s clear because if we think this, we also think James can replace Thiago (Alcantara) because James can play in offensive midfield, and we think because James can play on the right, that he can replace (Arjen) Robben and (Franck) Ribery.”
“James can also play on the left and as a midfielder... we did not buy James to replace anyone. We bought James to have a better team and with James we have a team with better quality. But James also knows that if he does not deserve to play, he does not play,” added Ancelotti.
The capture of James has not gone down well in some quarters among Bayern fans because, despite his struggles last season in front of goal, Muller remains hugely popular. The 27-year-old, who like Rodriguez can play in several forward positions, shrugged off the increased pressure for places.
“We are here and James is here to break the rumours and he gives the team more options, and I am sure the coach is happy to have him here and have more options in the future,” said Muller, smiling broadly. “James is a very good player who will help us improve the team.”