Leeds United made quite a splash in the summer transfer market to mark their return to the Premier League. They spent over £100 million on transfers, a good portion of which went to signing Rodrigo Moreno for a club-record fee.
The Spanish striker is back in England almost a decade after a short-lived loan spell as a teenager. He has come a long way since that time, SBOTOP is here to take a quick look back at the various stops he made before his record-breaking move to Elland Road.
Early days in Benfica, Bolton
Rodrigo moved to Spain from Brazil as a teenager. He spent five years with Celta Vigo before earning a move to Real Madrid’s academy at age 18. He played only 22 times for the Real Madrid reserves before moving on to Benfica, who signed him on a €6 million deal.
But Rodrigo would have to wait to make his Benfica debut as the Portuguese club sent him on a season-long loan to the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers. The 19-year-old struggled to make an impact in England, though, as he made just 17 total appearances (four starts) for the Trotters, scoring one goal with one assist.
Rodrigo would finally get his chance to play for Benfica the following season, and he made the most of it. He scored 16 goals in 38 appearances in his first season with the club, then had 11 goals in 39 the following season.
He was finally the team’s first-choice striker in the 2013-14 season, where he scored 18 goals in 43 appearances to lead Benfica to their Portuguese league title in four years. He also scored three goals in seven games as Benfica reached the Europa League final, which they lost to Sevilla.
Prime years at Valencia
That fine season earned Rodrigo a move back to Spain with Valencia. After a one-season loan, he made his move permanent the following year for a reported fee of €30 million.
Rodrigo struggled to score in his first three seasons at the Mestalla. He had only 10 goals to his name in his first 75 La Liga matches for Los Che. But he finally broke out in the 2017-18 season, where he had 16 goals in 37 league appearances as Valencia finished fourth after back-to-back 12th-place finishes.
That impressive season also saw Rodrigo become a regular for the Spanish national team. He was capped 19 times from 2018-19, scoring seven goals. He was also a part of La Roja’s 2018 World Cup squad and made three substitute appearances.
Rodrigo would fail to recreate that outstanding goalscoring season in his last two years with Valencia. Nevertheless, he still found a way to contribute to the team as he set up 13 goals over two seasons.
His versatility from the centre-forward position — he could drop deep to link up play and move to the wide areas — still made him a much sought-after player around Europe and continued to be linked with big-money moves to Arsenal and Barcelona.
Record-breaking Leeds move
Rodrigo eventually did get a big-money move from cash-strapped Valencia. But instead of going to one of Europe’s elite clubs, Leeds United — newly promoted to the Premier League — broke their club transfer record to sign him on a €30 million deal.
Due to the record-breaking transfer fee, the pressure and the expectations were immediately set quite high for Rodrigo. However, anyone who’s watched the Spaniard play should’ve set their expectations accordingly. Despite his enormous price tag, Rodrigo wasn’t the type of striker who could guarantee 15-20 goals a season.
And as fate would have it, the start of Rodrigo’s Leeds career hasn’t seen a lot of goals; he has just one in his first six appearances, which came when Leeds defied the Premier League 2020 betting odds and held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw.
Although, Rodrigo has been used in a different role by manager Marcelo Bielsa. With Patrick Bamford playing well and scoring goals, Rodrigo has been used more as a ‘free 8’ when he’s played thus far this season.
Rodrigo’s versatility to play several positions in attack has been one of his main strengths and was likely one of the qualities that attracted Bielsa to him. But there will inevitably come a point in the season when Leeds will need their club-record signing to play up to his price tag and produce some Premier League 2020 highlights for the Whites if they are to stay up this season.
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