After a meteoric World Cup in 2014, pundits and fans alike thought midfielder James Rodriguez’s rise would continue, especially after he left then-middling AS Monaco for superpower Real Madrid. It seemed like the perfect fit, and no one expected him to leave — as he recently did — on a two-year loan transfer to Bayern Munich.


After we saw just — could do as Colombia’s primary facilitator, the prospect of him feeding passes to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale was captivating.


Fast forward three years later, and James Rodriguez simply existed at Real Madrid beyond his first season. In the past two seasons, he has played in only about half of the team’s total games and seen his goal scoring and assists numbers decrease across the board.


Playing in a star-studded midfield that featured stars Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić, James was starved for chances near the end of his tenure at Madrid. Enter Bayern Munich.


Arguably the most well-rounded club in the world, Bayern features much of the World Cup champion German team alongside world-class striker Robert Lewandowski and famed winger Arjen Robben.


Their weakest position after World Cup hero Mario Götze’s departure last season is center attacking midfield, James’ strength. In fact, playing behind a strong, finishing-oriented striker like Lewandowski — similar to playing behind Radamel Falcao in international play, where James is highly successful — should serve the midfielder well.


However, whatever James’ potential, this transfer is only temporary. For two years, James has a chance to improve and become a more assertive centerpiece of a team. And while Bayern gets two years of whatever James can produce, he ultimately will return to Madrid, who are the real winners in this deal.


The loan system in soccer lets a team send out a player they believe in — but acknowledge needs experience — to a team that better fits that player’s skill. This often occurs with Premier League teams and lower league teams, but with Real Madrid’s wealth of talent, they can ship out elite players like James.
At worst, they permanently sell him off and make money for the club. Realistically, they will regain a player in his prime — James will be 28 when he returns to Spain — when their current midfield star in is past his at age 33.


Bayern gets a player who can contribute and improve as they vie for a Champions League title, and James improves both his play and his brand with more consistent appearances.


A loan system, while a pipe dream as of now, would work wonders in the NBA. While this is hardly a regular occurrence today, teams who draft well are often punished with the salary cap’s restrictions and the threat of the luxury tax — a tax put in place for teams who are above a certain amount of payroll.


Take the most infamous example of tax-dodging: Prior to the 2012-13 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder faced the luxury tax — and potentially the heftier repeater tax — if they were to retain then-rising star James Harden. So instead of trading him away for hardly a good return, they could have loaned him for two or three years to the Houston Rockets.


In this scenario, Harden still gets what he wants — a featured role that no longer has him playing third fiddle to Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook — and OKC avoids the tax. Three years later, he could either return to the Thunder or stay with the Rockets permanently, based on what the respective front offices agree on. It would be at this point where a trade could be made.


More recently, the Boston Celtics traded Avery Bradley, one of the best defenders in the league, due to cap space issues. Instead of trading Bradley, they could have loaned several of their young players to teams — who, again, pay their salary while the Celtics compete for a title with their strong current roster.
Currently, a loan system would be far from perfect in the NBA, and there are not enough teams and players to justify it — yet. However, the future of the league is bright, and the recently rebranded G League — the NBA’s developmental league — has seen an increased talent pool as more skilled players find themselves outside the NBA.


If the NBA continues to trend toward a league system complete with relegation, which is the case in every major European soccer country, the loan system then becomes a viable option for fixing the NBA’s major parity problems. Until then, only one James will get the best of both worlds.


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