As one of the key players in a Valencia side that had often achieved its aims, Rodrigo Moreno was seen as a top La Liga forward. He was regularly linked with moves to Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, as well as a return to his academy club Real Madrid. However, when Moreno did move on, it was to a team that nobody had expected; newly-promoted Premier League side Leeds United. However, despite paying a record fee of €30m to complete the signing, Rodrigo has failed to fire in England.
Having played in England under Owen Coyle at Bolton Wanderers, this is a second experience of the English game at two contrasting career points. At Bolton, he received some of his first-ever game time and he looked raw if talented. At Leeds, injury and an inability to make good on the positions open to him in the team has left a much more experienced Moreno looking every bit as uncomfortable as he did in his spell in Bolton.
Indeed, his struggles are so stark that there is talk of an immediate return to Spain in the summer of 2021. The 29-year-old has played just 21 games for Leeds and has contributed four goals – a single assist, and three goals. That’s not good enough for a player who was expected to be a game-changer for the promoted team. Indeed, he was supposed to replace Patrick Bamford and give Leeds a versatile option on all three forward roles – at the moment, he would be lucky to be seen as the first choice in any of them.
In fact, a precious few of the ‘big’ signings in summer 2020, including Diego Llorente, have really fired in white yet. Rodrigo, though, has been the biggest disappointment by far.
Will Rodrigo move on from Leeds United after one season?
The problem for Leeds is they invested a huge sum of money and wages into Rodrigo. Any Spanish team looking to bring him back will be doing so on terms favourable to them. This might mean a loan deal with wages covered or a cut-price fee in a bid to save on wages. Teams linked include former club Valencia, who might be sold soon, and Spanish giants Barcelona, Atletico, and Sevilla.
All four clubs, though, are known to have limits to what they can spend and would find it hard to offer Leeds the chance to recoup the full fees that were invested in talent. His contract runs until 2024, too, so it is unlikely that Leeds will be able to sell him at any time other than the summer of 2021 for anything like feasible value.
The challenge for Rodrigo is trying to find a move that would take him back into the grips of the Spanish national team; at the moment, his days of playing for La Roja look as far away as his days playing for Bolton Wanderers.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this – instead of a single-season exit, Moreno was supposed to be the next step forward for an ambitious Leeds side.