Real Madrid transfer talk began with Neymar this summer, before moving onto Mbappe and then Hazard. With none of those three coming in to at least partially fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, pre-season excitement amongst supporters was limited to Vinicius, an 18-year-old signed from Flamingo for 45 million euros. But after an impressive preseason, the Brazilian wonderkid has disappeared off the map.
As the transfer deadline of 31 August fast approaches, fans' hopeful anticipation has turned to resignation, with the only remaining hope being Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno, on whom, AS understands, Lopetegui has insisted. At this late stage, the Valencia striker, whose release clause is set at 120 million euros, is the alternative to the three mentioned above.
The big jump his career needed
The emergence of Rodrigo as a viable option is purely down to Lopetegui, who is a firm believer in his potential. At 27 years old, his career journey has not been typical to that of a top footballer. However, last season, guided by his coach Marcelino, he made the jump that his career needed: in 2010/2011, when playing for Bolton (on loan from Benfica), he played 24 games and scored 3 goals, which translates to a goal every 309.33 minutes; in 2017/18, he scored 19 goals in 44 games, averaging a goal every 157.7 minutes.
During his three years at Benfica he averaged a goal every 194.42 minutes, which was enough to convince Valencia to sign him. Valencia fans initially criticized the signing, believing it was a scam of his agent, Jorge Mendes, who is close to Valencia owner Peter Lim. He did not lack detractors in his first three seasons, during which he only managed to score every 329.11 minutes.
During those three years, he scored just 18 goals, one less than he managed to score last season, which he enjoyed injury-free and playing in a centre forward role. Marcelino’s clever decision to switch from a wider role to number ‘9’ has, by all means, paid off, and that has helped to garner the attention of Lopetegui. The Real Madrid manager has already coached Rodrigo at Spain Under-21 level. Perhaps now, the two will work together again at the Bernabeu.