By Mark Walker, PA Sport
Leeds striker Rodrigo is poised to start his first game as captain for the club in Sunday’s home Premier League game against Chelsea.
The Spain international took on the skipper’s role in last week’s 2-2 draw at Southampton after Patrick Bamford was withdrawn through injury and went on to score both Leeds’ goals.
Head coach Jesse Marsch said: “He will wear the captain’s armband, he’ll be ready to take penalties, he’ll be a leader on the pitch and he’ll be ready to execute the match-plan and play at the highest level.
“It says a lot about him and how he’s adapted and risen to the challenge in difficult moments, so I’m really happy with him and happy for him.”
Bamford (groin) was handed the armband for Leeds’ first two matches this season in the absence of injured captain Liam Cooper (Achilles) and both players face late fitness tests before Chelsea’s visit to Elland Road.
Rodrigo has come in for criticism from some Leeds fans, who feel he has failed to justify his £26million price tag since becoming the club’s then record signing when he arrived from Valencia in August 2020.
But he has made an impressive start this season, scoring in the opening-day win against Wolves before his brace at Southampton.
“He had an outstanding pre-season, I think he had a goal against Palace, three goals against Cagliari and then the three goals now in the first two matches,” Marsch said.
“It’s a combination of him adapting to the league, to me, to what we’re trying to achieve and then the confidence has grown in him massively.”
Marsch confirmed Leeds’ reported interest in FC Zurich striker Willy Gnonto, but said the Italian teenager would be seen as a “long-term project”.
Leeds missed out on their top striker target, Belgium’s Charles De Ketelaere, who recently opted for a move to AC Milan from Club Brugge, but Marsch insisted they were still hoping to make the right signing.
Marsch added: “I still feel, to balance out our squad effectively, it would be helpful. But we need the right guy.
“I don’t want to bring in somebody who’s going to take three months to adapt and educate and then not be ready to help us.
“The variables in terms of how prepared they are are, do they understand our football, the league, play with this quality, run at the level and press at the level and be intelligent enough to execute our match plans.
“Those are the factors. It’s not just ‘yeah we need a striker’ and then pick him out of the sky. Who is that guy who can meet the standards and the balance of what we need in the squad?”