Javi Gracia reveals key Leeds United striker priority as he echoes Bielsa and Marsch sentiment

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One of Javi Gracia's key Leeds United priorities for the international break is to help Rodrigo get closer to the player he can be when fully fit.

The striker has recently returned from an ankle problem, sustained in the FA Cup game at Accrington Stanley, that required surgery. Leeds' top goal scorer this season, his loss was more keenly felt than at any other time since his then-record transfer from Valencia in 2020. An earlier-than-expected comeback as a second half substitute against Brighton was followed by another cameo off the bench at Wolves and his 13th goal of the campaign.

Gracia, like Marcelo Bielsa and Jesse Marsch before him, sees the 32-year-old as a hugely important player in the squad. Bielsa often extolled the Spaniard’s virtues, calling him a ‘great player’ and earlier this season Marsch insisted Rodrigo possesses all the necessary qualities to be one of the best in the world.

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"He always has been a key player for this club and I think he will be in the future as well," said Gracia.

"We're trying to recover his best condition. [At Wolves] he played only a part, no more than 30 minutes. Day by day I think he's going to improve. You can see the quality, even playing 30 minutes."

Rodrigo came on with 23 minutes remaining at Molineux, when the score was 3-1 to the Whites. Although Wolves pulled another goal back, the replacement held a threat on the counter attack and had already played a part in a couple of dangerous moments prior to his goal. As was the case against Brighton there was an element of rustiness to the centre forward's play but when provided with a golden opportunity by Crysencio Summerville, Rodrigo took it brilliantly, showcasing his finishing ability with a dink of Jose Sa.

With Spain involvement not currently on the cards, the international break presents a chance for Rodrigo to work towards a lengthier contribution when Leeds travel to Arsenal on April 1.

"We need to work with him," said Gracia.

"One of the targets we have for the next two weeks. I cannot tell you for the next game if he'll be ready for 90 minutes but for sure he's going to improve."

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