Leeds United were not expecting to sign Rodrigo when the transfer window swung open this summer. They wanted a striker ahead of their first season back in the Premier League but the idea of signing the current Spain international was a pipe dream of director of football Victor Orta.
Orta made his tentative almost a month back and kept in touch with the player’s representatives as he probed the possibility of signing other forwards such as Brentford’s Ollie Watkins.
But as Rodrigo warmed up to the idea of a move to the Premier League and Valencia made it clear that they are prepared to sell him, Leeds were in the game.
Victor Orta and Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani travelled to Spain on Monday and conducted the swift negotiations to sign the striker for a club-record fee of £27m.
Rodrigo was considering staying in Spain next season but the final push came from Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa who personally spoke with the forward to convince him to move to England.
Rodrigo signing shows Leeds United mean business
Marcelo Bielsa kept his faith in Patrick Bamford last season in the Championship but was acutely aware that he needed better quality up front in the Premier League. A number of forwards were assessed but the Leeds manager is said to have jumped at the prospect of signing Rodrigo.
The 29-year-old scored just seven goals last season in a Valencia side that was suffering due to issues off the pitch. But he is a striker of real pedigree and has been a consistent part of the Spain squad.
Leeds are getting a striker who was valued at £50m last summer when Atletico Madrid wanted him and even Barcelona wanted him in January but Valencia blocked a move.
Rodrigo will add real quality to a Leeds side that is returning to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years. His experience at the top level and his international quality are likely to be of massive value in the top tier of English football.
Most promoted teams struggle to score goals in the Premier League and Leeds have gone out and tried to solve the problem upfront. Bielsa’s football is not based on the centre-forward scoring the bulk of his team’s goals and he doesn’t need Rodrigo to score 20 next season.
Bielsa needed an upgrade on the centre-forward’s role that Bamford played last term. Someone who can hold the ball up and bring teammates into the game with his link-up play. Rodrigo is a massive upgrade on Bamford in that respect.
The £27m fee is also a sign that Leeds are looking to bring in quality rather than quantity. Bielsa is likely to keep faith in the majority of the squad that won Leeds the promotion and wants quality additions in certain areas of the squad. The Leeds coach wants an evolution of his squad, not a revolution.
Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa’s pulling power in the market
Leeds United are one of the traditional powerhouses of English football but 16 years away from the Premier League is a long time and many doubted how attractive they would be when they are back in the top tier after more than a decade-and-a-half.
The Whites have provided a sound statement with the signing of Rodrigo from Valencia. The Spaniard could easily walk into any mid-table Premier League team and could even do a job for one of the top sides. As mentioned above, Atletico Madrid wanted him last summer and Barcelona were keen in January.
It is a massive statement on Leeds’ part to convince the player to move to Elland Road for their first season back in the Premier League. However, this is just not Leeds’ credit. Marcelo Bielsa is a massive factor as well.
The Argentine personally convinced Rodrigo to move to England despite the striker initially planning to stay at Spain. The Leeds manager is a cult figure amongst the best coaches in world football and even players are aware of his status.
Players would sit down and listen if Leeds and Bielsa come calling and that is more than what any mid-table or recently promoted Premier League side can hope to do in the market.
And in Andrea Radrizzani, Leeds also have a chairman who is intent on establishing Leeds as a Premier League side than just be happy to survive in the top tier.
Rodrigo’s arrival is a clear sign that Leeds are going to attack the Premier League, unlike any other promoted team.