Leeds United’s return to the Premier League saw them embark on a bit of a spending spree under Marcelo Bielsa, and the Whites’ most high-profile signing was undeniably the capture of Valencia star Rodrigo.
Reports claimed that the Yorkshire club shelled out a club-record sum to bring the Spain international at Elland Road, and almost a couple of years later, it’s quite safe to say things haven’t really worked out for the forward – he’s managed just 12 goals and three assists in 55 games across all competitions for Leeds.
What perhaps makes a move for Rodrigo even worse now on reflection, is that they were actually also attempting to sign Rafael Leao at the same time back in 2020.
Football Insider claimed that the Portugal Leao was of interest to Leeds, although it was suggested that luring him away from the San Siro may prove to be “complicated” as Milan still had “high hopes” for him.
It was added the Whites had made enquiries for the attacker, and that if Milan were going to sell, it would be for nothing less than the £20m they themselves have paid to sign him for French side Lille.
Since that deal failed to come to fruition, Leao has come on leaps and bounds in his time in Serie A.
Now valued at £60m by CIES, the 22-year-old – almost a decade younger than Rodrigo – has really come to the party for Milan this season, bagging 11 goals and providing another six assists in 34 games across all competitions – including notching in the Champions League earlier this year.
The president of Leao’s former club, Lille, Gerard Lopez simply declared him the “Portuguese Mbappe”, while Sporting CP’s former youth coach, Tiago Fernandes, proclaimed: “I pushed (then-Sporting coach) Jorge Jesus to take him in the first team and I said to him: ‘Yes, Gelson Martins has talent but Rafael is the best player in the history of the Sporting Academy’. At youth level, he was better than Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Dubbed as an “extraordinary talent” by Croatia legend Zvonimir Boban, it’s clear missing out on Leao may rank as one of Victor Orta’s biggest howlers at Elland Road, especially when you consider how Rodrigo’s career has turned out.
The man with 34 career goals to his name could have been a superstar signing for the Whites up front.