MARCELO BIELSA is adamant that Rodrigo has already justified Leeds’ record £26million spend – despite just three goals.
Injuries and a bout of Covid have restricted the Spanish forward to 12 starts since joining from Valencia.
As fans drool over fellow new boy Raphinha, Rodrigo – who arrived to all the fanfare – has found Yorkshire life a slog.
But reports of unrest left the 30-year-old distraught and quick to declare his allegiance to Leeds and Bielsa on Wednesday.
While nobody at Leeds expected every goal so far to cost a little under £9m, Bielsa is not worried.
Fit and available for the Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United this afternoon, the Whites boss predicts a fruitful last nine games of the season.
Asked if supporters have to wait until next season to see Rodrigo’s best, he said: “No, he can immediately show the resources he has.
“Rodrigo has already shown how important he can be to Leeds and has also justified, with the abilities he has, his transfer fee.
“We hope to have him healthy for a considerable amount of time and, if this happens, he will be able to show his ability very quickly.
“For me, it would be very difficult in the current footballing scenario to obtain a player with his qualities.
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“He becomes a starter when he’s in a good state.
“We have seen what he is capable of – he is a great striker.”
Having taken a month to force his way into the newly-promoted side, everything clicked in October.
Despite pitching up as Spain’s No 9, a role behind lone-striker Bamford had to do.
His first goal in the 1-1 draw to Manchester City was followed by, in Bielsa’s view, his best display during the 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa.
Covid then hit, leaving Rodrigo ill for 20 days before taking another month to reach full fitness.
Back into his stride, further misery came when he limped off with a groin problem at Leicester on January 31.
Six games on the sidelines came before two unflattering sub appearances, with Bielsa hooking him 44 minutes after coming on against Chelsea.
But in a staunch defence of the former Bolton loanee, the Argentine added: “When a player goes without playing, it is very difficult to absorb.
“Perhaps the segment where he didn’t play for 40 days (after Covid) was too quick (for his return).
“He’s a player that gets his best physical state by gradually increasing the minutes.
“He arrived in his best version and he was at his best level prior to injuring himself against Leicester.
“The level he was at during that period was a very good one.
“What he was giving to the team, with the way he can unbalance an opponent, was very positive.
“We have seen what Rodrigo is capable of.”
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