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May 24, 2024

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Rodri: Manchester City’s invincible & ‘best midfielder in the world’

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59 games. 395 days. That’s when Manchester City midfielder Rodri last tasted defeat in blue.

Rodri: Manchester City's invincible & 'best midfielder in the world'
Rodri: Manchester City’s invincible & ‘best midfielder in the world’

City’s 3-1 win over Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on Sunday means the 27-year-old is now on the longest unbeaten run in all competitions of any Premier League player past or present.

“It is difficult to understand what we have done in recent years without him. It would’ve been difficult,” City boss Pep Guardiola told the club’s website last month.

The run surpasses that of former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho (58 games), with Rodri’s last loss in a City shirt coming against Tottenham in February 2023 – although it does include City’s defeat on penalties by Arsenal in the Community Shield.

In that time City have won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup along with the Uefa Super Cup and the Club World Cup, while Rodri was also part of the Spain team that won the Nations League.

The holding midfielder signed from Atletico Madrid in 2019 for £62.5m in the hope that he would eventually step into the boots of former captain Fernandinho.

Like his predecessor, Rodri’s role at City is one that tends to fly under the radar, with the likes of Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne taking the headlines. But according to players, pundits and his manager along with the stats, his significance in City’s exploits in recent years cannot be overstated.

Rodri: Manchester City's invincible & 'best midfielder in the world'
Rodri: Manchester City’s invincible & ‘best midfielder in the world’

‘What can’t this guy do?’

Pep Guardiola says Rodri is “unbelievable” and “the best midfield player, currently, in the world by far”.

A humble guy with no social media who studied for a business degree while also assisting City to their fifth Premier League title in 2021 – his second with the club – Rodri does not often receive the plaudits.

“He’s the one who allows your De Bruyne’s, Phil Foden’s and Bernardo Silva’s to do what they do because he’s so good,” said former City forward Paul Dickov on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Guardiola said the holding midfielder should “never, ever be in the highlights” and “do the job he has to do”.

“The highlights have to belong to other people. The holding midfielder has to think for the rest of the team and do not expect the recognition. But internally? All team-mates and staff, they all know how important and decisive he is. Massively important for us,” the City boss added.

But it is the compliments he receives from his peers which provide the bigger picture.

“It is just a joy to share a football pitch with him,” said Luton captain Tom Lockyer on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“You don’t say that about a lot of players but he was certainly one of them where you come off the pitch and you go ‘wow’. When you’re on a pitch with him you’re just thinking ‘what can’t this guy do?’

“He’s just a Rolls Royce. When you thought you had him pressed and were going to nick the ball, you weren’t, he was just teasing you in so the person who got next pass had more time on the ball. Those are the sort of games he plays. It is very rare he gets caught on the ball and he just dictates everything that Manchester City do.”

When it comes to individual awards, there are City players more likely to win them. But for the big moments on the pitch, he is as prolific as any of them.

It was perhaps fitting, then, that it was Rodri who struck the only goal against Inter Milan in Turkey last year to win Manchester City a first Champions League title and complete a historic Treble.

“With him, we are a better team,” said Guardiola. “No doubt.”

Rodri leads the passing stats

Manchester City are famed for their passing football under Guardiola, the masters of dominating possession.

At the heart of that is Rodri, with the Spaniard topping the charts for most passes attempted and completed by any midfielder across all competitions since his unbeaten run began.

He has the most successful passes per 90 minutes in Europe’s big-five leagues this season and in recent seasons has started to add goals and assists, with seven goals and six assists for City this season.

Rodri: Manchester City's invincible & 'best midfielder in the world'
Rodri: Manchester City’s invincible & ‘best midfielder in the world’

City’s record when Rodri is not in the team speaks volumes, too.

When he was suspended after receiving a red card against Nottingham Forest earlier this season, Guardiola’s side lost all three games without him – at Newcastle, Wolves and Arsenal.

“Everything City do in the build-up starts from Ederson but Rodri is involved at some stage, whether it’s getting it off the back four or pushing up a little bit,” said Dickov.

“The biggest compliment to him is how important his team-mates think he is. He puts fires out left, right and centre when City don’t have the ball but when he does he’s just phenomenal.”

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