'Curiously he’s had difficulties at Leeds United' - Luis Enrique on Rodrigo call up and Spain expectations

Spain boss Luis Enrique says Rodrigo's role for the national team will be 'totally different' to what he does for Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United.

By Graham Smyth
Friday, 5th November 2021, 1:03 pm

The Whites forward, who became their record signing in August 2020, has spent 13 months outside Enrique's plans. He picked up Covid-19 last Autumn and took time to recover his fitness, before a January groin injury further derailed his debut season at Elland Road.

There was no place for him in Enrique's squad for the Euros, although the striker did agree to be part of a shadow squad who trained under the manager's watch in order to provide emergency alternatives as Covid-19 broke out in the camp. Ultimately Rodrigo was sent home with the manager's thanks and played no part in the major tournament.

Now, however, he's back in the plans. Two goals in his last two league games, nine starts from Leeds' first 10 Premier League fixtures and three in the Carabao Cup have helped his cause, as Enrique recognised during today's squad announcement for the November World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Sweden.

"Fundamentally he plays much more, he is fitting more in his team and I see he is more agile," said the Spain head coach, who admitted Rodrigo's challenging first season at Leeds played a part in his absence from the national team.

"I know Rodrigo very well. I believe that in the times that I've called him up during my first tenure as the national team manager, he did very well. Curiously, when he went to Leeds he had more difficulties and struggled to generate the necessary confidence to play a sequence of games and to be better.

"Now I think that he is in a good moment and as I know him very well, I know that he is coming with a lot of desire, motivation and with a great will to help us."

Bielsa has used Rodrigo up front as a number nine in the absence of the injured Patrick Bamford and also behind the striker as a number 10. Enrique likes the 30-year-old's versatility but will expect different things of him than Bielsa.

CALLED UP - Leeds United's Rodrigo is back in the Spain squad for their November World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Sweden. Pic: Getty

"I think that this is the profile of player that can play as a number nine, also in the wing," he said.

"He is clever inside the box, he has good shooting skills and can finish well. Although, what he does at Leeds is totally different from what we do here. However, I know him very well and that played in his favour and also his form right now, which is very good."