Friday night was Leeds United fans’ first opportunity to get a look at new signing Rodrigo in action.
The 29-year-old cost the Whites around £26 million or so, and many supporters will have been eager to see if they are getting their money’s worth by tuning into his outing for Spain against Germany in the UEFA Nations League.
As previously reported by MOT Leeds News, however, a lot of the Elland Road faithful were left feeling more than a little underwhelmed.
At first glance, his stats don’t exactly make for great reading.
Rodrigo had a total action success rate of just 40%, as per Wyscout.
His average for last season was 51.6%.
Likewise, his pass completion rate was 9.2% down on last term, and his xG was 0.18 lower than usual.
But there were positives too.
The hitman’s shot accuracy was up 13.3%, and his dribble completion rate was 23.3% higher.
Plus, to top it all off, he did get an assist for his side’s late goal in the 1-1 draw.
And his dramatic contribution showed some really promising centre-forward play.
As the ball is played out wide in the 95th minute, Rodrigo, circled above, is still full of running and making plenty of effort to get himself into the penalty area.
Bearing in mind how much we all know Marcelo Bielsa loves a willing runner, that kind of work ethic and stamina is bound to be very popular around Elland Road.
But really, the key to this assist is the intelligence of Rodrigo’s movement.
At this point, you would perhaps expect Rodrigo to make a dart across the front of the defender towards the near post.
The ball is in a prime position to be flashed across the face, and the slightest touch could catch the goalkeeper off-guard.
Instead, Rodrigo peels off the back of his defender and towards the heart of the area.
It might seem counterintuitive for a centre-forward to move away from the space, but because his defender has tracked him and the ball in has been delayed slightly, it means that the front post is no longer really a viable option.
Moreover, because his marker anticipates the forward movement, it means that Rodrigo has bought himself the most precious commodity a striker can have in the box – time.
And that time proves useful.
The ball comes over, and the nearest man to Rodrigo – who isn’t is marker, remember – is unable to match his leap because he is scrambling to even get anywhere near him.
The Leeds man shows wonderful awareness to cushion his header down for a teammate, rather than trying to nod one home himself, and his selflessness and cunning ultimately save his country from defeat.
This may not have been the most polished performance the ex-Valencia man has ever put in, but there was plenty here for us – and more importantly, Bielsa – to get excited about.
In other Leeds United news, this Leeds-linked centre-back is now up for sale.