Manchester City’s new signing, Rodri, could be the key to the club finally getting over the hump in Europe this coming season.
Manchester City have finally landed their long-term successor to Fernandinho in central midfield!
After weeks of negotiations, City announced the signing of Atletico Madrid midfielder, Rodri, for £62.8 million on July 4th. He became the club’s most expensive signing ever, surpassing Riyad Mahrez’s price last summer.
Rodri’s transfer comes as a big relief to the club. City tried to sign a successor for the holding midfield role in each of the past four transfer windows. Each time, they failed to land their target, leaving them short of options if or when Fernandinho got injured or struggled.
Rodri’s signing, however, is about more than just the future. He’s exactly the type of talent that can help Manchester City to finally get over the hump in the UEFA Champions League this season.
Elite Defensive Skills
Rodri is a very advanced talent for his age. Despite being just 23, he is already one of the best defensive talents in the world in central midfield.
Rodri got his first significant senior level experience at Villarreal in 2016-17. Though he primarily featured as a sub that year, he more than met up to his reputation as one Spain’s most promising young midfielders.
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In 23 total appearances in La Liga that season, 15 coming as a sub, he averaged 2.1 tackles per game along with 0.8 interceptions. Those would be elite defensive numbers for anyone, but were really incredible coming from someone who was playing relatively limited minutes.
Because of the potential he flashed that season, Villarreal decided to give him a shot to be their starting defensive midfielder the following season. He did not disappoint.
In 36 appearances in the league, all but one of which were starts, Rodri averaged an incredible 2.8 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game in 2017-18. He also improved in the number of clearances he made (2.6 compared to 1.3 per game in 16-17) and shots blocked too (0.6 from 0.2 the season prior). His overall form rating finished at a stellar 7.20, the highest of any player in the squad.
Atletico Madrid took notice of his talents during his breakout years for Villarreal. This led to them signing him for incredible bargain of just 25 million euros last summer.
Despite facing stiff competition for the starting role last year in defensive midfield, with Saul and Thomas Partey both having been regular options for the club in the past, Rodri seized the starting role and never looked back.
In his 32 La Liga appearances last season, all but two of which were starts, Rodri averaged three tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game. His form rating was a career best 7.24.
Rodri is one of the most intelligent defenders in the game. His positioning and reading of the game are very advanced for his age. He’s a constant disrupter, breaking up attacks with his interceptions and perfectly timed tackles. His elite defensive IQ and talent is a large part of the reason why he’s drawn comparisons to Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets, a man whom City manger Pep Guardiola coached in the Barca youth academy and brought into the first team.
Rodri represents a significant defensive upgrade over either of City’s other options in the pivot role too. Fernandinho averaged one less tackle per game (two) last year in the league than him, but was a tad better in interceptions per game (1.4). Ilkay Gundogan was even further behind in those stats, averaging just 0.6 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game in the Premier League. He may have had more defensive work to do in Madrid’s reserved scheme, but that doesn’t diminish how good he was at the defensive side of the game.
City won’t have to worry about being short of defensive cover with Rodri in the fold. In fact, his defensive skill set is exactly what they need if they’re going to clean up the defensive mistakes that have sent them out of Europe in each of the past three seasons.