Despite Rodrigo de Paul having been linked with a move to Leeds United for the best part of a year – with Marcelo Bielsa’s outfit reportedly seeing a €35m (£30m) bid rejected for the Argentina international in the summer of 2020 and Phil Hay claiming in February 2021 that the 27-year-old remained interested in a switch to Elland Road – the central midfielder ultimately sealed a move to Spain, with Atletico Madrid landing De Paul in a €35m (£30m) deal.
And, since his switch to the Spanish giants, the £42m-rated dynamo has gone from strength to strength, highly impressing over his 26 LaLiga appearances for Diego Simeone’s side this season, scoring one goal, registering two assists and creating six big chances for his teammates, as well as making an average of 1.2 key passes, 0.7 interceptions, 1.4 tackles and winning 4.5 duels per game.
These returns have seen the player who Julio Velazquez claimed “lacks absolutely nothing” and “could play in any club in the world” average an extremely impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.00, ranking him as Atleti’s seventh-best performer in the top flight of Spanish football.
However, it has not only been in domestic competitions that the £28k-per-week has shone for his new club, as, over his six appearances in the Champions League, De Paul has been in similarly spectacular form, scoring one goal and creating three big chances, in addition to making an average of 1.2 key passes, 0.8 interceptions, 2.3 tackles and winning 5.2 duels per fixture.
Furthermore, in recognition of his astonishing level of performance for Atleti, the 27-year-old was recently named as the 46th-best footballer in the world by The Guardian, ahead of the likes of Chelsea’s Kai Havertz, Real Madrid’s David Alaba and West Ham United’s Declan Rice.
Meanwhile, since missing out on the signing of De Paul last summer, things have gone in quite the opposite direction for Leeds, with Kalvin Phillips having been ruled out of action since December with a hamstring injury and the club’s status as a Premier League side looking increasingly uncertain – with the Whites now being just two points above the relegation zone.
As such, it very much feels as if Victor Orta’s decision not to up his bid for the player who Smarterscout’s Dan Altman claimed no midfielders “can match” was something of a sliding doors moment for the Whites, with De Paul’s form since his move to Spain only further highlighting the club’s nightmare on missing out on his signature.