Scouting Report: Atletico Madrid’s Rodri

June 26, 2019

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The summer presents a changing of the guard at Manchester City.

Vincent Kompany has already returned to Anderlecht having scored a crunch goal in the title race and midfield magician David Silva has confirmed he’ll leave next summer, while Fernandinho is another whose best years are behind him. That isn’t to say the Brazilian won’t be a key man as City move into their next cycle, but that the Premier League champions need to start thinking about life beyond the 34-year-old.

It’s a problem area that City need to address as Ilkay Gundogan’s time at the club also looks to be drawing to a close as talks over his contract continue to stall. That said, City are wasting no time in their pursuit to find a long-term successor for Fernandinho in the middle of the park and while he may not be a like-for-like replacement for the Brazil international, Rodri has proven he can carry out the necessary holding duties with aplomb.

Despite spending just a sole campaign with Atletico Madrid, a club he was released from before establishing himself as a LaLiga regular at Villarreal, City are prepared to trigger his release clause and while Los Colchoneros are reluctant to lose a player who started 32 of 38 league outings in the Spanish capital last season, they are powerless to deny Rodri the chance of a move to England. And having made his intentions clear, it’s only a matter of time before City confirm his big money capture.

He’s just the midfielder Pep Guardiola craves to anchor the side too. City had targeted Jorginho to perform a similar role, only for Chelsea to beat their Premier League counterparts to the punch in the race for the Italian. While it was no bad thing they missed out on Jorginho – City successfully defended their Premier League crown, albeit by a single point, after all – but with the meticulous Guardiola keen on overseeing a their next period of domestic, and possibly continental, dominance, the Spaniard is aware that he needs to tinker with the squad to inject youth and competitiveness.

In that regard, Rodri is the ideal fit and having successfully made the step up from Villarreal to Atletico Madrid, doing so with ease, there is no reason why he can’t continue his rapid progression at the Etihad Stadium. For a City side that averaged more possession (64%) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues last season, as per WhoScored.com, the Spain international has the tricks of the trade and a clear willingness, and confidence, to receive the ball from the defenders under pressure to ensure Guardiola’s side continues to dominate opponents.

A 91.1% pass success rate ranked 11th in LaLiga last season from a modest return of 63.2 passes per 90, so he has no qualms in picking out a teammate with ease. That he averaged 3.8 accurate long balls per 90 highlights an incisiveness that would allow City to spread the play from flank to flank or help Rodri quickly pick out teammates in the final third without the need for a ponderous build up approach. It would result in a more direct City side, which is no bad thing given Guardiola is able to call upon rapid attackers in the form of Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez.

Getting these players on the ball quickly in dangerous positions would help catch defenders out and allow City to tear opponents apart with greater regularity, that in itself a terrifying notion seeing as they scored more goals (95) than any other Premier League team last season. And while Rodri is an effective recycler of possession, he’s an adept individual at winning the ball too. He won possession in the midfield third more times (149) than any other player in LaLiga last season, while only Nacho (110) made more tackles than the City target (103), as per WhoScored.com.

As far as long-term options for the deeper lying midfielder role goes, City won’t find better than Rodri. His style is similar to that of Sergio Busquets, a player who shot to prominence during Guardiola’s stunning reign as Barcelona boss, so to seek a midfielder in the mould of the 30-year-old comes as little surprise.

It’s more when than if City get this deal over the line and Guardiola will have the controller he craves to anchor the midfield. Fernandinho has established himself as a fan favourite and a core player at the base of the middle of the park in Guardiola’s 4-3-3 setup, but as one career begins to unwind, another is starting to flourish. For City, they’ll benefit immensely with Rodri in midfield as they prepare to secure a third Premier League crown and, importantly, a first Champions League title.

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Author: Ben McAleer

Ben is a fountain of statistical knowledge at WhoScored.com and has a penchant for all things Luka Modric. Alongside his role at WhoScored.com, you can also find him at Sky Sports, The Guardian and Swansea City

Twitter @BenMcAleer1


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