'He is going to shine a lot in this team' - Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa reiterates backing for attacker

Marcelo Bielsa saw Rodrigo come close to creating danger against Liverpool on 10 occasions and continues to back the Spaniard to shine at Leeds United.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 5:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 5:19 pm
CREATING DANGER - Marcelo Bielsa saw Rodrigo constantly looking for danger in Leeds United's defeat by Liverpool. Pic: Getty

Rodrigo played just 45 minutes against Jurgen Klopp's Reds, departing at half-time as Bielsa sent on Tyler Roberts in his place during the 3-0 defeat.

The Whites' record signing, a £27m summer 2020 arrival from Valencia, missed a golden early chance to put Leeds in front and appeared to struggle to get on the same page as his team-mates before being substituted, although his final action of the half was a dangerous cross for Luke Ayling who kneed the ball over the bar.

The head coach found positives in Rodrigo's display, however.

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"Rodrigo from my point of view, even though I substituted him, he played a very positive first half," said Bielsa.

"For a striker it is very difficult to receive the ball from which to create danger and I give a lot of value to those actions from when you receive the ball, creating as much danger as possible. Rodrigo had ten interventions of this type. He was close to creating danger. In none of the actions did he manage to accomplish it, but I give a lot of value to his constant looking, that constant looking for actions that will allow us to score a goal. You can fail to shine by not finishing the chances or you can fail to shine due to not generating chances. And Rodrigo in the first half of the last game, he created a lot of actions from which you would have imagined us scoring a goal."

Last season was a difficult and frustrating one for the Spanish international. Covid-19 and a groin injury disrupted his season and prevented him from building up a head of steam of finding rhythm, only showing glimpses of his obvious talent and intelligence.

Bielsa kept faith with the Brazil-born 30-year-old and got some reward with a flurry of goals and improved performances right at the end of the campaign. The hope at Elland Road was that a full pre-season, his first as a Leeds player, would allow Rodrigo to hit the ground running in his second season.

So far, that has not proved a reality, Bielsa withdrawing Rodrigo at half-time in the defeat at Manchester United, leaving him on the bench against Everton due to a slight knock, subbing him in the draw at Burnley and at the interval against Liverpool. With Patrick Bamford nailing down the lone striker role entirely on merit ever since the club's final Championship season, Rodrigo's best chance of featuring is in an attacking midfield role that is yet to allow him to look completely at home.

On numerous occasions Bielsa has gone on record to laud the qualities of the former Benfica man and has taken responsibility for Rodrigo's inability to show his full capabilities.

Ahead of tomorrow's visit to Newcastle United, Bielsa reiterated his faith that Rodrigo will be a star for Leeds.

"When he manages to be efficient he is going to be a player that shines a lot in this team," added the Argentine.