The former Real Madrid manager, who managed the Colombian at Bayern, is eager to join up again for a third spell at Napoli with a Bernabéu return unlikely.
It is a reunion that makes all kinds of sense and James Rodríguez will be the last person to turn down the opportunity to link up again with the coach that coaxed his finest season at Real Madrid out of the Colombia international and led him to Bundesliga glory after taking him to Bavaria, far from the icy gaze of Zinedine Zidane and the Bernabéu bench.
Carlo Ancelotti has identified James as the missing ingredient for a Serie A title tilt next season and Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis is in the market for a star name, albeit one a little less expensive than Cristiano Ronaldo, who was reportedly offered to Napoli before Juventus sealed a deal for the Portugal captain last summer. James and Ronaldo share a representative, the ubiquitous Jorge Mendes, and De Laurentiis has done plenty of business with the Portuguese’s Gestifute agency recently, tying up an extension on Faouzi Ghoulam’s contract and securing the signature of Carlos Vinícius.
Madrid keen to send James on his way again
In the case of James, Napoli cold scarcely be better-placed: the lure of Ancelotti, who will represent the old guard among Italy’s biggest clubs next season with Juve, Roma, Inter and Milan all set for new managers, and the opportunity to reignite his career after a difficult season at Bayern and his ignominious exit from Real Madrid. The Bundesliga champions have a purchase option on James for 42 million euros, but it is extremely unlikely that will be exercised: Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said recently that he would not buy James to sell him on and the Colombian is set on leaving after a series of run-ins with Niko Kovac and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
James, Ancelotti and De Laurentiis are all firmly behind the move and now all that remains is for a price to be agreed with Real Madrid – assuming Bayern do not change their minds before the June 15 deadline for the midfielder to return to Spain. Relations between the two clubs are good – Real have sent José Callejón, Raúl Albiol and Gonzalo Higauín to the San Paolo for reasonable amounts – and Napoli hope they can negotiate a similar arrangement over James. Madrid are eager to coin more than the 42m clause offered to Bayern as they plan their own rebuild this summer, but are equally keen to avoid assuming James’ wages again with two years remaining on the Colombian’s Bernabéu deal.