Rodrigo Moreno: "Working with Bielsa is quite an experience"

Rodrigo Moreno (Rio de Janeiro, 1991) answers AS's call from his home in Leeds. Answer each question without rushing to hang up and pausing at each reflection.


Rodrigo Moreno (Rio de Janeiro, 1991) answers the call from his home in Leeds. Break the ice talking about the weather and with humor: "It's very cold here, I got used to it badly in Valencia. Then he answers each question without haste to hang up, pausing in each reflection and says goodbye with a wish to a friend: "Hopefully Marce will do well in the Cup finals."

Today he will play his second game against Chelsea after a month off due to injury. At the moment, in 19 games in his return to the Premier, he has three goals and one assist. The Spanish international, who entered but finally fell from Luis Enrique's last list due to COVID, talks about the end of his six-year cycle at Valencia and the reasons that led him to Leeds, where he lives confined and "learning every day" under the command of Marcelo Bielsa, "quite a character, in a good sense, of football" .

How's your life in Leeds?

Well, very well. I'm doing fine. The Premier is exciting, very competitive, a pity to play without an audience. Otherwise, I lead a quiet life, I have barely been able to see the city because here we are still in confinement.

How is your day to day?

From home to training and back home. Little more. Since October everything is closed. They only opened a couple of weeks for Christmas. But on January 1, everything but grocery stores closed again. But if you go to a park there are a lot of people and the use of masks in the street is not mandatory. In Spain, which was the time of confinement, it was more strict when it came to letting people out of the house, but in England we have been with businesses closed for longer than in Spain. As if that weren't enough, it's very cold here ... maybe I got too used to the good weather in Valencia (laughs) .

Are the protocols of the Premier similar to those of the League?

When I arrived it was mandatory to spend a 14-day quarantine if you came from Spain. The club rented me a house in the middle of the field so that I would have space to train, because they couldn't come to see me. I was videotaped the training sessions. I did a country life, although only one week, because then I went another with the National Team and they counted me as a quarantine for being a bubble. And in general, the Premier is just as strict as the League: different changing rooms; three buses, two for the players and one for the coaching staff; here yes masks at all times ... The issue of COVID is a pain in the neck, really.

What convinced you of Leeds?

He had been in Valencia for a long time; three summers in which it seemed that I was leaving and then I was staying. The time had come to close a six-year stage, which I describe as very positive. And in that context appeared Leeds, the Premier… and the challenge of working with a coach like Marcelo Bielsa. I called that a lot.

It was surprising that a recently promoted from the Premier signed an international for Spain.

The Premier is very attractive for its sporting and economic potential. Also, Leeds is a landmark. In terms of structure and infrastructure, it is an elite club at the level of others in which I have been (Benfica or Valencia). In addition to what I was telling you, my decision was influenced by the project they presented to me. Leeds approached the climb like a new cycle.

Needed a change of scene?

That too. They were six very intense years in Valencia. For me and for all of us who live them. We had very good years and very bad years. I think I had nine coaches, six sports directors, three presidents… I needed to change and the club also wanted to enter a new stage. We left many who have been there for a long time ... and that's how everything happened.

You already had an experience in the Premier at Bolton. On your return to England, have you noticed a change from what you were to what you are?

The competition is even more competitive. This COVID situation is giving it an advantage over other countries, because it has a better economic situation. There is a lot of level in all the squads and the games are unpredictable. Anyone beats anyone. Luckily, personally, I have evolved a lot. And thank goodness! If after ten years I wasn't a better footballer, I'd be screwed (laughs) .

In the balance of pros, the figure of Marcelo Bielsa has stood out, does the first contact with him give respect?

I confess that I was very curious and most people ask me more about him than about the club. He is an absolute character in the world of football, in a good sense of the word. Wherever you go, you say his name and everyone knows him. In my case, he treated me very well from the beginning. He has a peculiar way of understanding football and a very different way, very, very different, at least to everything I have had in my career. His personality is very marked. It is quite an experience to be able to work with him.

How is Bielsa so peculiar?

His work methodology has nothing to do with what I have encountered with other coaches. It is a more analytical way of working. There are no global jobs for possessions or games. Global trainings do not exist. They are all real game situations and he breaks them down. If you do one-on-one work, it's one on one. The physical part has a brutal importance. And then there is the personality, which is what it is, very strong, but always with respect. What you see at a press conference is him, he never says anything in front of the gallery. The requirement is maximum. The relationship with the player is purely professional.

For example, in your case, who is playing in another position, does it push you a lot to assimilate the concepts you want from you?

Obviously. With the players that we have arrived, he insists us a lot on adapting to his way of working. To his concept both offensive and defensive. We base the game a lot on individual markings, almost man to man across the field. It is very different for many and those of us who come new crush us and help us to adapt.

Does it cost to adapt?

It is very different. But little by little you pick it up and you adapt. The change is noticeable, quite a bit. When you work in zones, there are situations in which a teammate can make up your mistake, but in our style of play it is difficult. If you don't run here, you don't work… it shows a lot, because everyone is responsible for a man in the field. You have to be very careful and attentive to the opponent who has touched you, everything good or bad that that player does is up to you.

How has Bielsa changed?

On a physical level I have improved a lot. The physical demand of the Premier is higher and that of Bielsa, even more. And in the individual duel, because it is based a lot on that. It is to be better than your opponent on the field. I am playing in a position more of a midfielder than a forward, although in Valencia I also played in various positions. For me that is not so much news.

The biggest physicist in the Premier is a reality ...

Yes. Noticeable. In the physique of the players and in the group. The size of the players here is not seen in Spain. The league is looking more for the fine player, here they are stronger. And the intensity level is higher. Contact is also more permitted.

Come on, they hit more ...

(Laughs) Sometimes here you crash and say: what a rock! In addition, fewer cards are drawn than in Spain and that conditions, because as they are not reprimanded, they are not controlled. The Premier is more permissive.

Do you think this influences the shipwrecks of Spanish equipment in Europe?

Well, I think the physique is influencing more and more. The footballer seemed to be the only elite athlete who was not an athlete and that has already changed. The physicist is imposing itself, although the warning has been coming for years, the power of Bayern was an example.

Are you happy with your performance?

Obviously this is an irregular year. At first I had to adapt and it was difficult for me to get into the team; When I did, I caught COVID, two weeks totally stopped, and when I got back into the rhythm, I got injured and I haven't been able to play for a month. In this context, I am happy with the sensations I have had in the 19 games that I have been able to play and the fact that I play later, prevents me from reaching the area further.

That change in position, do you think it may affect you in terms of Selection or is this versatility precisely positive?

Depends how you look at it. If what you look at is the ratio of goals per game, it can hurt me. But I am not the coach nor do I know his criteria when choosing. What I am aware of from the first day I went to the national team is how difficult it is always to come back, because there are great players in all positions. But, answering the question, it can also be a plus to be able to play in various positions within the 4-3-3 of the National Team. The important thing is to keep working, giving and doing the best I can at all times. Things have always happened naturally with me.

You were talking about the ratio of goals per game, but with the data in hand, you have been more of a qualitative than a quantitative striker.

After 11 years in the elite, it is clear that I am not a '9' scorer. That is not my characteristic. But I have not arrived where I have arrived because of that but because of other characteristics. The key now is not to have any injuries again between now and the end of the season and to regain my level. Then we will see what happens.

For the moment, he has once again been able to compete with Leeds at the gates of Luis Enrique's March list.

Selection is always a challenge. We all have that desire. As I was saying, being on the list is always very difficult. In the great teams, such as Spain, there is always competition and everything will depend on what they do in the rest of the season.

Have you received any calls from the Federation in recent weeks about your injury?

Since I went to the National Team I have never been called Only if I was already on a list and I was injured. But always after a list, as it happened in November, that I got COVID, I couldn't go and they called me to see how I was doing. But before a list, I have never received a call.

I imagine that a footballer in March already thinks that there is a European Championship in summer ...

Well, you think about it, yeah. But not only now, since the beginning of the season. It is a challenge that never leaves your mind when you see that you have options, because there is your history in the national team and you know that until now they have counted on you, but there is still much left.

Is the League still?

Not all parties, really. I'm watching more of the Premier. Yes I have seen many of Valencia, although not all ...

But you will know how Marcelino is doing in Bilbao ...

Of course I know. I recognize that since Marce has been at Athletic… I have been at least more aware of her results. And I have seen some games, such as the victory of the Super Cup… I am infinitely happy for him and for his coaching staff. I hope he does great in the two Cup finals.

And what do you feel when you see Valencia fight to get away from relegation?

It's been a difficult season. I have been there for years and in similar situations. The club is in a difficult situation, a lot of instability. I hope the season ends in the best possible way, because I have many friends and a lot of affection for the club and its fans.

And what are you planning at Leeds?

It has been a positive season, but also irregular in terms of results, because we are a team that proposes, but also exposes itself. We draw little ... Either we win or we lose. But we are in the middle of the table. The objective was to keep the team in Premier to continue taking steps and establish the club where it needs to be. I believe that we are going to achieve that goal and from there, we will continue. Actually, I am happy in Leeds.

Well, it is a good phrase to end the interview. Thank you and good luck for the rest of the year.

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