Leeds United man confirms exit with emotional statement as Whites count unseen financial benefit

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Leeds United's leading 2022/23 goalscorer Rodrigo says he will never forget the 'special moments' of an eventful three years at Elland Road.

On Thursday the striker's move to Qatari club Al-Rayyan, for a fee believed to be in the region of £3.5m, was finally confirmed and Leeds said goodbye to the man who cost £27m in 2020.

Rodrigo, now 32, was the biggest-name post-promotion signing for the Whites, in a deal that Victor Orta held up as the most fair for all parties that he had been involved in. Valencia were getting a good deal and Leeds were getting a good player for a fair price, insisted the Whites' former director of football after agreeing a then club record fee.

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But it wasn't until Rodrigo's final season at Leeds that he won over the bulk of the club's fanbase. Injuries and Covid-19 played a part in disrupting his debut campaign, but so too did an apparent difficulty in fitting into a role in Marcelo Bielsa's system.

His second season was also hampered by a foot problem that plagued him, one he managed to play through at times but not without struggle.

That issue cropped up again last term, particularly late on, and was highlighted by Karl Robinson as a reason for holding Rodrigo in such high esteem. Rodrigo ended the season with 13 top flight goals - not enough to save Leeds from the drop but enough to re-write much of his Elland Road story.

Had his exit come in the summers of 2021 or 2022 then few tears would have been shed by supporters but Thursday's departure has brought an emotional response from sections of the fanbase.

Rodrigo's own statement pulled at heart strings.

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EMOTIONAL GOODBYE - Leeds United have sold Rodrigo, their top goalscorer last season, to Qatari outfit Al-Rayyan. Pic: Getty/Matt McNultyEMOTIONAL GOODBYE - Leeds United have sold Rodrigo, their top goalscorer last season, to Qatari outfit Al-Rayyan. Pic: Getty/Matt McNulty
EMOTIONAL GOODBYE - Leeds United have sold Rodrigo, their top goalscorer last season, to Qatari outfit Al-Rayyan. Pic: Getty/Matt McNulty

“The time to say goodbye to three wonderful years in Leeds has arrived," he said.

"For me, it is really difficult to find the right words to try to explain all my feelings now.

“All I have to say is that I have experienced very special moments in this great club, both personally and professionally, which I will never forget. I feel very grateful for the care and love that my family and myself have felt from the first moment either from the fans and all the amazing people that work in the club. Now it's time for a new chapter in my football career and in my life, but I will always carry Leeds United and the city of Leeds in my heart. Thank you so much for everything and, forever and ever, MOT!”

What Leeds have lost is a player whose movement and ball-striking ability would have given Championship defences nightmares, but he was never likely to stay. There were offers and expressions of interest from the Premier League and LaLiga, yet a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia or Qatar always felt like the most likely route for the Spanish international.

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While the fee Leeds have recouped for the striker is below what could be reasonably demanded for a player of Rodrigo's finishing ability and one who so recently hit double figures in one of the world's most demanding divisions, a post-relegation clause in his contract had been activated. And where the move does benefit Leeds is in removing a wage considered too rich for the Championship even with a relegation reduction factored in. Rodrigo's exit, along with that of Diego Llorente, Robin Koch, Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen, who will join Roma imminently, gives Leeds a decent amount of headroom when it comes to profit and sustainability rules in the second tier. Marc Roca will also go this summer, along with Junior Firpo and potentially Illan Meslier and Crysencio Summerville.

It's highly possible, if not inevitable, that Tyler Adams, Jack Harrison, Willy Gnonto and Luis Sinisterra will be the subject of transfer window offers from top flight European outfits but Leeds are hopeful of retaining the quartet. 49ers Enterprises, whose takeover attempt is still awaiting EFL approval, are expected to aggressively pursue promotion through one of, if not the highest wage bill in the Championship and a bolstering of Daniel Farke’s squad.