Marcelo Bielsa has expressed his sorrow that Leeds are yet to see record-signing Rodrigo Moreno at his consistent best this season.
The Spain striker signed in a £27.1m deal from Valencia this summer and has endured an indifferent first season at Elland Road.
At his best, Rodrigo has been an excellent addition to the side. However, a series of injuries – as well as a lay-off with the coronvirus – have curtailed his game-time.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s match with Fulham, Bielsa has admitted a small injury looks set to sideline the forward.
That’ll come as a blow given he was two games into his return from a groin problem sustained at Leicester. Indeed, the player was withdrawn despite being a substitute himself last time out against Chelsea. That led to Bielsa explaining his thinking.
Despite that, Rodrigo has earned glowing praise from Bielsa. He has also explained why the season has been so stop-start for the 30-year-old.
“To explain exactly, Rodrigo arrived at the start of the competition with no pre-season for us,” Bielsa said. “It took him four weeks to become a starter and after playing his best game, which was against Aston Villa, then he became sick. He was ill for 20 days, then after that to get back to his best state took him a month.
“He played 10-12 games at a medium to high level then picked up that injury which he was out for five weeks with.
“And perhaps this segment where he didn’t play for 40 days was too quick [with his return]. “He’s a player that gets his best physcial state by gradually increasing the minutes. He played 45 mins with the U23s. Then 45 mins against West Ham and against Chelsea who is one of the teams who has the biggest rhythm in the league alongside City.
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“I had to bring him back earlier because my estimate is that he shouldn’t have played more than 50 minutes.”
Despite that, Bielsa has hinted that Rodrigo, when 100% fit, is one of the first names on his teamsheet.
“He becomes a starter when he’s in a good state of form. When he has been without playing for over a month his return is not instant. We have seen what he is a capable of. He is a great striker that when he finds his best form.”
Llorente call-up welcomed by Bielsa
Rodrigo’s current fitness means he’s been overlooked by Spain for their upcoming internationals.
However, Diego Llorente has been called up after overcoming his own issues. The Spain star signed in a £17m deal from Real Sociedad this summer and has struggled with numerous setbacks.
However, he has started Leeds’ last four games – and is starting to look the part in Bielsa’s defence.
He’s also likely to keep his place alongside Pascal Struijk for the visit to Fulham on Friday.
And having been called up by Spain, Bielsa took time to praise the experienced centre-half.
“I think to be called up to the national team of the level of Spain is always a recognition of what the player is producing. [Spain coach] Luis Enrique evaluated that he was able to return to the national team is a big recognition for him.”