Are we talking about the next Sergio Busquets, or should we say, the next Fernandinho? It’s a name that seemingly came out of nowhere in recent days, however Rodrigo Hernández Cascante or Rodri as he is more commonly known, appears to be Manchester City’s number one target in the vital defensive midfield position. But who exactly is this 22-year-old and why is he being named as the ideal long-term replacement for Fernandinho?
With a rumoured €70 million release clause, Spanish International Rodrigo of Atletico Madrid is the newest name to have joined the supposedly long list of possible Fernandinho replacements. From recent reports suggesting he may be the man for the job, it would seem that Manchester City are out to buy the entire Atleti midfield. City have been linked with Thomas Partey, Saúl Ñíguez and now Rodri from Diego Simeone’s squad as they look to have a difficult summer ahead to hold onto their players at the Metropolitano Stadium next season.
With talks about long term target Tanguy Ndombélé cooling off, as the Frenchman seems to be ‘assessing his options’, it seems as though the Lyon player has dropped down the pecking order below both Saúl and Rodri.
Having been a staple of a strong Villarreal team, who came fifth in La Liga last season, it was easy to see his ability on the ball and reading of the game. He shined ahead of other players by putting out fires across the pitch and taking forward swift counter-attacking moves. These performances didn’t go unnoticed as many top teams across Spain saw the potential of Rodri, including Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Of course Rodri chose to play for Los Rojiblancos and has since kept up the same great performance as he did at Villarreal.
Standing at six foot three, Rodrigo would already command a taller frame and presence than the other targets previously mentioned. This is something Pep Guardiola must be looking at with a squad that has one of the smallest average heights in the Premier League. Although he is tall, from watching any Atleti match, you can clearly see he also has the strength and mobility to go with it – quite the combination if you ask me!
Being compared to Sergio Busquets is proof of his great ability on the ball. However keeping in mind the role that Fernandinho plays for this City side, it is better to compare some of his statistics to the Brazilian engine, who is looking to be phased out as his legs get older.
Rodri has a remarkable successful pass percentage of 90% per game, bettering that of other top targets Saúl and Ndombélé. Fernandinho similarly averages 87% per match, however the Brazilian also manages 73 passes, 0.8 of which are key passes per game. This is slightly higher than that of Rodri, who averages 57 passes and 0.5 key passes per game. This however, could be due to the more defensive style of play that Diego Simeone adopts in contrast to Pep Guardiola’s possession-based forward-thinking philosophy.
When it comes to defensive statistics, Rodri also matches up to Fernandinho. He commands the air with 2.5 aerial duels won per game; just 0.1 less than Fernandinho and the same goes for his 2.0 clearances per match. An aspect which Rodri excels in however is his tackling. He makes a whopping 3.4 tackles per game which betters the N’golo Kanté that was vital to Antonio Conte’s title-winning side at Chelsea. This does suggest he would easily fit into a top Premier League team having the eye for a tackle and aggression for a duel.
Pep Guardiola however, likes his sides to intercept and push forward to counter or dictate the game. Rodri has shown this through his great reading of the game, managing 1.2 interceptions which betters both Saúl and Ndombélé. He is also only dispossessed 0.9 times a game, which both those players on average fail to better. His mere 0.6 bad touches a game means that once the ball is heading towards him, he will not let it go easily and pushes forward to get his team on the attack with a precise pass.
His only downfall would be his attacking sense. He averages the least shots per game at 0.7, in comparison to all the other targets and the least amount of dribbles at 0.5. Again this may be due to the style that Atletico Madrid adopt. Some reports suggest he is better fitted to a more possession style of play rather than the hard defensive philosophy Simeone implements in his team – which certainly bodes well for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola.
Rodri has managed just the two goals this season however, the Spaniard has claimed three man of the match awards. Pep Guardiola will be hoping Txiki Begiristain gets his number one defensive midfield target this summer following the failure to do so in the previous such window. Learning from Fernandinho in particular could see Rodri be the man to take his place and propel Manchester City to even more silverware in the future.
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