Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has given his nearly man Rodrigo a huge shot in the arm at his Thorp Arch press conference on Thursday.
Hooked at half-time in two Premier League games already this season, fans and pundits may have been forgiven for thinking Rodrigo’s time at Elland Road was doomed.
In his second season in West Yorkshire after his £26m move from Valencia last summer, the striker was withdrawn at the break in Sunday’s defeat to Liverpool. That followed his substitution at half-time in the opening game of the season at Manchester United.
The game at Burnley saw the 30-year-old relegated to the bench, while he got his longest run-out of the season (73 minutes) in the subsequent draw with Burnley.
Rodrigo,who scored seven goals in 26 Premier League appearances last season, has yet to register a goal or assist this season being used in behind striker Patrick Bamford. Bielsa though believes his work is pretty much unseen.
“Rodrigo from my point of view, even though I substituted him. He played a very positive first half.
“For a striker it’s very difficult to receive the ball and create danger and I give a lot of value to those actions.
“Rodrigo had had 10 interventions of this type.
“He was close to creating danger. In none of the actions did he manage to accomplish it. I give a lot of value to his constant looking.
“After you can fail to shine by not finishing the chances or you can fail to shine by not generating chances. And Rodrigo in the first half of the last game created a lot of chances that would have imagined us scoring a goal,” said Bielsa.
It will be interesting to see if Rodrigo retains his starting place against Newcastle on Friday night.
Rodrigo was a Barcelona target
According to The Athletic, Barcelona identified Rodrigo as a surprise transfer target last month.
The source though labelled Barca’s approach to the window as “scattergun” and Leeds turned down the request.
Phil Hay reports that “there were hours to go before the deadline when Leeds United received contact from Spain”
Barca wanted a loan deal, a striker to stand in while Sergio Aguero recovers from a calf injury.
Leeds understandably were not willing to let go a player they had signed for considerable money only 12 months previously. They would also be unable to bring in a replacement such was the late nature of the enquiry.
Per the report, Bielsa was committed to keeping him. And the player indicated he was ready for season two in the Premier League.