Simple but effective: How Rodri has become one of the most underrated players in Europe

Promotional features / Mon 15th May 2023 at 01:40pm

Since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2019, Rodri has become one of the most important players in Pep Guardiola’s side. The Spaniard, who arrived from Atletico Madrid after just one season in the capital, was slow to transition to English football initially at the Etihad, and was in and out of the side due to the influence of Fernandinho. However, the last couple of seasons have really demonstrated how invaluable Rodri has become. It’s safe to say that he has established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe.

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

When the ball flew into the back of the net against Bayern Munich, Rodri celebrated his first-ever Champions League goal, but that doesn’t mean the Spanish international has been short of special moments in sky blue. He clawed the side back into the game against Aston Villa when they won the Premier League on the last game of the season, and will be hoping to play another big party as City pursue a maiden European title.

Indeed, City are favourites for the competition according to many betting on sportsbook sites and Rodri is part of a midfield triumvirate that is just so hard to stop. Kevin De Bruyne’s creativity combined with the combative İlkay Gündoğan ensure City keep the majority of the ball, and it is testament to their quality that even established European giants like Bayern have problems dispossessing them.

“I am very happy for the performance. It was a very special one,” Rodri said. “I want to congratulate the team because of the effort, and because of the fact we played one of the best teams in Europe.”

Stylistically, Rodri’s role in the side is deceptively simple, and has developed since he first arrived in England. Still only 26, he has a great passing range which means he can play between the lines, often deployed as the lone defensive midfielder due to his composure, perhaps the most press-resistant midfielder in the world alongside Toni Kroos. However, Guardiola has ensured Rodri doesn’t become one-dimensional, with City changing their shape in-game to overload and suffocate opponents. This commits Rodri further up the pitch to sit on the edge of the box and try and break down low-blocks and shoot on occasion, which led to his goal against Bayern.

The best part of a Guardiola team is their ability to implement the dark arts of football. Rodri seemingly never gets sent off despite some controversial moments and his tactical fouls allow City to remain in control and rarely get caught on the break. The manager has heaped on the praise for his player a number of times, complimenting his abilities in and out of possession.

“What a game, what a game. What a holding midfielder, no words to describe him,” he said earlier in the season. “With and without the ball, the presence, clever with the ball, now attacking, driving, going with the ball when the space was there. A fantastic game.”

At the time of writing City travel to Bavaria knowing that anything less than their best can allow Bayern back into the tie but 3-0 should be enough to get the job done. It will be interesting to see if they can indeed go all the way in Europe this season and reach Istanbul come June.

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