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Leeds United broke their transfer record this summer to bring in Spanish striker Rodrigo Moreno Machado as their first marquee signing of the summer. Rodrigo became Leeds United's most expensive signing, breaking the record set by Rio Ferdinand who signed back in 2000 for £18 million. The striker spent six years at the Mestalla, scoring 59 goals in 220 appearances, making 41 assists. Last seasons tally saw him chalk up 7 goals and 11 assists in 34 appearances including a few goals and assists in the Champions League.
Described by Spanish football journalist Guillem Balagué as a modern forward who can play up front or wide right, create and work large spaces, is quick, has a good work rate and presses hard, Leeds fans knew we had a good player on our hands but I’m not sure any of us would have expected him to have become so vital to the way we play as quickly as he did.
After an uncertain start on the opening day of the season, giving away a penalty at Anfield, Rodrigo made his impact in the second half against Manchester City. A thirty-four-minute performance in which he created chances and scored the all-important equaliser. With the absence of Pablo Hernandez, Rodrigo slotted into the No 10 role against Wolves and Aston Villa and quickly became a vital cog in the Bielsa machine. Noel Whelan was heaped praised on the Spanish international describing him as “fit, hungry and lively” crediting him for being the focal point of a lot of Leeds United’s positive play.
But just as he was getting into his stride a period of self-isolation began following a positive Covid-19 test, Premier League rules state a player must isolate for 10 days before returning to training or matches if they have the virus. It was a huge blow for Marcelo Bielsa given Kalvin Phillips was missing though injury. In the two games Rodrigo missed against Leicester and Crystal Palace, Leeds struggled to find their balance and ended up on the wrong side of 4-1 defeats each outing. But there is a huge boost ahead of this weekends game against Arsenal with Rodrigo returning to training at Thorp Arch on Tuesday and available for selection against Mikel Arteta’s men.
With Rodrigo’s return and hopefully water under the bridge regarding Bielsa and Pablo Hernández’s falling out, the Argentine should have plenty of options for the attacking midfield role against Arsenal. Having played two teams recently who like to sit back and play on the counter attack it will be nice to come up against a team who like to play on the front foot more and hopefully this should give Rodrigo plenty of space he can exploit!