Rodrigo relishing Leeds United pre-season and second year with Whites
Leeds United's record signing Rodrigo is braced for a hard pre-season - but wouldn't have it any other way as the Spaniard eyes lift off in his second year with the Whites.
Leeds smashed their transfer record to sign Spanish international forward Rodrigo for £27m from Valencia last summer.
The 30-year-old made his Whites debut as a second-half substitute in the season opener at Liverpool, but Rodrigo then had to endure a series of setbacks through either groin and muscle injuries or coronavirus.
It meant the Spaniard was restricted to making 26 appearances in the Premier League but the record recruit ended the season with a bang and was nominated for the May player of the month award.
The forward netted four goals in United's last five games of the 2020-21 campaign and is now relishing his second year at Leeds, including the demand of pre-season.
"For me it will be very important for sure," said Rodrigo to LUTV, assessing just how crucial pre-season would be.
"Last season I had a lot of small breaks during the whole season and with Covid and with different small injuries.
"Of course this is not good for any player so I prepare myself in the best way to do my best during this season."
Asked if there was any part of pre-season he did not look forward to, Rodrigo smiled: "Everyone knows that pre season is hard, it's tough.
"We train a lot with a lot of possessions and everything but it's an important part of the year.
"We prepare the body again for a really hard and long season.
"It's true that it is hard but it is very necessary and important so we are happy to be here."
As well as making 28 appearances in all competitions for Leeds, Rodrigo also added another three caps for Spain to his collection during the 2020-21 campaign.
But the forward's last outing for his country came last October and despite his stellar end to the season, the record Whites signing was not selected by boss Luis Enrique in Spain's squad for the Euros.
Positive Covid-19 tests within the Spain squad then led to Rodrigo and others being called up to a ‘parallel bubble’ alongside the Euros squad as part of a contingency plan.
Rodrigo was ultimately called for in the Euros itself.
"It was a little bit different, it was good I spent a lot of time with my family and friends,” said Rodrigo, assessing his summer.
“All the people I saw, I didn’t have the opportunity to see during the season because of Covid, so they couldn’t come.
“It was a little bit different because I went to the national team for one week so it was good to see everyone there and then recover for the next season.
“I am very happy, I think everyone is looking forward to next season and is very excited to continue showing our level in the Premier League.”
Reflecting on the return to pre-season training at Leeds, Rodrigo laughed: "It’s like the first day back in school!
“Everyone is happy and excited, they want to start training as soon as possible!
“It’s good to see everyone back again. For me it is a pleasure to train with the guys. I think we have an amazing atmosphere in the dressing room.
“We have a very competitive team but also very respectful between each other. So, I am very happy and excited to be here again with the guys.
“We have a good amount of time to prepare ourselves for the next season. Everyone knows that it will be harder than the last one.
“The opponents know us better, so it will be really tough. Last season maybe the expectation of us was less.
“I think this year we show we have the level to be between the best so the expectation will be higher, that is natural.”
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Thank you Laura Collins