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Equal Time: Atletico Madrid better off without Rodrigo Moreno

Sunday 18th August 2019
Simeone Rodrigo Moreno Equal Time Ios Toby Prince

Diego Simeone's summer intoxication and extravagance peaked with a deluxe move for Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno. Atletico Madrid's spending spree could climb to £250m with the imminent capture of the Spaniard. This deal could jeopardise Rojiblancos' new standards. 

There were not many strikers on Moreno's level in 2017/18. He was a class above contemporaries. His unheralded partnership with Simeone Zaza yielded dividends aplenty for Marcelino. Sixteen league goals and six assists fired Valencia back to the Champions League. The haul - 19 in total - represented the best return of his career. 

Despite Zaza's return to Italy, Rodrigo resumed the next campaign like spinning tires on a Ferrari running through the gears. After being linked with a move to The Mattress all summer, he brushed the league's runner-up at Mestalla. The Brazilian-born poacher cancelled out Angel Correa's opener with a volley from Diego Godin’s error. Then he went off the rails. 

Before finding the net against Eibar in December, Rodrigo went missing in 15 successive matches. That's four months, approximately 1,400 minutes without registering a goal. The 28-year-old managed six other strikes in the league, an unsurprising return judging by history. 

Take nothing away from Rodrigo who had to fight all the way to the top. With an unceasing tenacity and never give up attitude, he emerged from the dark in six clubs across four different countries. Rodrigo started off at Celta Vigo, then moved to Real Madrid aged 18. He joined Benfica in 2010, spent one year in England (on loan at Bolton Wanderers) before returning to Spain five years after.

Whether by using his blistering pace, unpredictability on the dribble or strength in possession, Rodrigo is a handful for defenders. He is a very good passer, quick, can get past his man, hold up the ball while being clinical even from outside the box. He's also being pretty good in the air, too. Inconsistency accompanies these fine traits. That's his biggest issue.

Rodrigo has never been prolific in front of goal. Besides 11 in 2013/14 at Benfica and 16 for Valencia in 2017/18, the Rio de Janeiro native didn’t cross double figures in the league. His first three seasons in Roman Colony yielded 10 goals. There was a season he managed just one goal and another two. 

Atletico splashing around £60m on Rodrigo could backfire. He isn’t the kind of striker that produces the goods in every single game, especially after Antoine Griezmann’s painful departure. Of course, the 28-year-old would occasionally pop up to deliver some vital strikes and points but ambitious clubs want them on a regular basis. 

Rodrigo isn't clinical in front of goal. He is the kind of poacher that converts one in 10 chances. According to Whoscored, only Luis Suarez (31) and Karim Benzema (18) missed more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than Rodrigo (17) in the Primera Division last term.

There is an argument that Rojiblancos may not even need the extra firepower. Although Diego Costa was a shadow of himself last season and would miss the start of the campaign, while youngster Joao Felix may take a while to hit the ground running,  Alvaro Morata is well ready for the task ahead. As a back-up, Simeone has Nikola Kalinic and Ivan Saponjic to play around with, pending when Costa returns to his beast mode. 

With Correa's expected departure to AC Milan, Rojiblancos’ priority should be a playmaker or second striker. Only Felix is naturally suited to slotting behind the striker but isn't ready for such a huge task. James Rodriguez, Philippe Coutinho and Paulo Dybala could fit into this role. Fortunately, James is linked. Atletico is better off without Moreno...

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Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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