Atletico Madrid are interested in signing James Rodriguez from rivals Real Madrid and the player wants to make the move happen, a source close to the player has told ESPN FC.
Earlier this summer Bayern Munich declined to trigger an option to sign James permanently following two years on loan, and he is not in Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane’s plans.
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Napoli had looked a likely destination, bringing a reunion with manager Carlo Ancelotti who worked with James at both Madrid and Bayern. However, the asking price could prove a problem for last season’s Serie A runners-up.
“James wants to play for Napoli, but Madrid are asking for too much money,” Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said last week.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Atletico have been working hard for over a month in a bid to bring James to the Wanda Metropolitano — and a deal could be done around the €42 million price set between Bayern and Real in 2017.
Despite Atletico having already spent over €200m this summer, including a club record €126m on Portugal international Joao Felix, the departures of Antoine Griezmann, Rodri and Lucas Hernandez mean funds are available to add one more big signing ahead of next season.
Although players moving between the Spanish capital’s two biggest clubs is not common, midfielder Marcos Llorente joined Atletico from Real earlier this summer in a €40m deal.
Complicating the situation is potential interest from both Atletico and Madrid in Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, with the former Real Betis player’s reputation having surged following his performances during Spain’s victorious under-21 European champions campaign earlier this summer, which saw him named Player of the Tournament.
Madrid are also moving forward with their big squad upheaval this summer, and more money would be required if they are to move for Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, with Zidane an admirer of his fellow Frenchman.
Los Blancos’ chief transfer negotiator Jose Angel Sanchez flew out with club president Florentino Perez to Madrid’s preseason training base in Montreal on Sunday, with the futures of many squad members including James, Gareth Bale, Dani Ceballos and Keylor Navas still uncertain.
Zidane is not with the team at the moment, with the Frenchman’s brother Farid having died on Saturday.