Aiming to thrive, not just survive: Leeds sign Rodrigo

Rodrigo in a pre-season friendly for Valencia

Leeds have signed Spanish-International striker Rodrigo from Valencia for a fee of roughly £27 million


A bit of History

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As a youngster, Rodrigo played at Flamengo with Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara. In fact, the two are still very good friends. However, Rodrigo joined the Celta Vigo youth ranks when Thiago opted for Barcelona.

Rodrigo moved to Real Madrid at the age of 18, starting in the C team before being quickly promoted to Real Madrid Castilla. However, he never made a first team breakthrough. He soon made the move to Benfica, however, where he joined their first team. He then bagged himself 45 goals across three terms at the club, including contributions to a domestic treble in 2013/14.

In 2014/15, he moved to Valencia, for a €25 million fee. He played primarily as a number 10, supporting Paco Alcacer and Alvaro Negredo and was noted for his high off-the-ball work rate. To this day he has had 35 goals for Valencia, and that brings us to the transfer.


The perfect fit?

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It is a subject of little debate that Leeds United’s ambitions go beyond survival in the premier league, and their latest signing just proves this further. Rodrigo Moreno Machado is a Brazil-born Spanish International.

In 2019/20, Rodrigo scored 8 goals and registered 9 assists in 34 games for Valencia, although he sat out the final weeks of the campaign with a knee injury. According to LUFCDATA, n the Champions League, he managed 2 goals from 6 shots on-target and produced 2 assists and 9 chances in 6 matches in 2019/20. His pace remains one of his core strengths and reached a top speed of 32 km/h. His prolificacy in front of goal for the national team, when played as a Number 9, shows that this is essentially that his lack of goals are a result of Valencia’s tactics.

Rodrigo carries a passing accuracy of 77% this season in the Spanish top flight, showing he carries the ability to link up play. Rodrigo is also a capable Number 10, so there’s also a possibility that he could link up with Patrick Bamford as opposed to replacing him. Another interesting stat provided by LUFCDATA is that Rodrigo created 12 big chances in La Liga in 2019/20, only Karim Benzema (13), Gerard Moreno (14), and Lionel Messi (34) managed more. He was joint-7th for most assists (7). Averaged 0.33 assists per 90, bettered only by Leo Messi (0.63) and Luis Suarez (0.36) (1000+ minutes). So Bielsa could very well see him slip into this role. To add to this, Leeds have him listed as a “Second Striker” on the mobile app.

There is still a 4-day quarantine in place for individuals traveling from Spain, so the likelihood of Rodrigo arriving, training with the team, and being ready to start by the first game is low. However, when you look at the qualities he already has and the way he plays, you can’t help but think he won’t need putting through the Marcelo Bielsa Machine as brutally as Jean-Kévin Augustin was back in January.


Good business?

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Rodrigo is Leeds’ second permanent first-team signing of the season following Illan Meslier’s £5m move from FC Lorient. He has set Leeds back £27 million, which has many fans asking: Is he worth that much?

In short, I’d say yes. He has had well over 5 years of top-division experience and a wealth of international caps. He has played against the very best in the world. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Lionel Messi at Barcelona. He has Champions League experience and even played there this season.

Valencia are not in a good position financially and are seemingly trying to sell some of their best players to get out of the rut they are in. So £27 million for a striker in his prime, really is a fantastic deal. And that’s not to say that Bielsa won’t improve him as a player. Just look at what he did to the team that finished thirteenth before he joined. He won them the league in two seasons.

This signing shows to the Leeds fans that have doubted transfer policy, that Director of Football Victor Orta is switched on to the market, and what Bielsa wants in terms of first-team signings. And with this signing, Leeds have sent a clear message to the Premier League: We’re not here to scrape survival, we’re here to win.


Headline Image Credit: Werner100359 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

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