HE may be about to sign for Man City in a record-breaking move, but Rodri won’t get carried with himself.
The Spanish midfielder, compared to Sergio Busquets in style, is destined for the Premier League after his club Atletico Madrid were forced to accept a £62.5m offer that met his release clause.
The modest 22-year-old will be a welcome addition in the engine room for the league champions, and his level-headed nature is sure to make him a favourite among City’s playing staff, just like N’Golo Kante is at Chelsea.
Because the hard-working Rodri isn’t your usual footballer.
You won’t see him decorated in tattoos, keeping the Manchester tattoo parlours in business as he doesn’t like ink.
And anyone expecting to be kept up to date with Rodri’s movements on social media will be sadly disappointed because he has no interest in Instagram either.
Rodri lives so under the radar when he was starring in La Liga, earning rave reviews at Villarreal two seasons ago, he was living his life as a student.
Shunning renting a posh apartment, Rodri lived in a shared space at the Universidad de Castellon in eastern Spain.
People were shocked when they saw Rodri, who was playing in the top flight but still living at the university residence.”
Rodri's friend, Valentin Henarejo
He studied Business Studies and Economics, and balanced a precarious football career with his degree, never missing a lecture.
And it left his fellow students completely baffled that a pro footballer they were seeing playing every weekend was floating around the student halls.
“People were shocked when they saw Rodri, who was playing in the top flight but still living at the university residence,” his friend Valentin Henarejo told Marca.
“After the first few days of getting to know him, there was normality.
“He shared a space with everyone, he liked being with his friends and sitting on the sofa with everyone.
“But, of course, at the start it was strange seeing him playing table tennis or doing his washing.”
Going pro never changed him
Money for Rodri, who is set for a huge pay rise at the Etihad, isn’t what motivates him, according to his mate that remembers his early days as he began to find his feet in Spain’s top flight.
His car, until recently, was a second hand Opel Corsa which he bought from a woman when he got his driving licence
Rodri's Friend, Valentin Henarejo
In fact, rather than splash the cash on a Ferrari or Lamborghini like a lot of footballers, his first car was an old-banger he bought from an elderly lady.
“His car, until recently, was a second hand Opel Corsa which he bought from a woman when he got his driving licence,” Henarejo said.
“They advised him to buy a better one for his safety and the journeys from Madrid to Castellon, but he didn’t understand why he would spend so much on a car.
“In fact, one time he told me that some friends were ‘crazy’ for buying nice cars, all that mattered was that it takes you from A to B and that’s all.”
A practical boy, it could have been easy for Rodri’s personality to change when he began getting talked about by the Spanish press as the successor to midfield regista Busquets.
However, that wasn’t the case.
Henarejo revealed: “When he got to the first division he didn’t change.
“On a personal level his day-to-day life was the same. Train, travel to play, rest, study… as much as he could.
“He made the step up well, although there are always difficult moments when things don’t go well, but we helped each other mutually.”
‘Football comes second in his life’
In true nature, after Atletico Madrid bought him in 2018 for a fee in the region of £18m, he took it all in his stride.
“When he signed for Atletico he only told me, he came from having played against Barcelona and he told me that Marca had published it,” Henarejo said.
“He told me whilst we warmed up the pizza that they gave him after games, you couldn’t tell that he had signed for Atletico.
“He lived his day-to-day life, although always setting high goals.
“When we were together, football came second. In his life what matters most is his family.
“They are more concerned about his studies, they wanted him to be well-educated because they know that football is a lottery.
“His agent has been important too. Whilst others looked for money, he looked after Rodri.”
Successor to Busquets
Villarreal took Rodri on in their youth set up in 2013, and he soon made pals with Pablo Alvarez, who has since moved to Deportivo Alaves.
“Rodri was a year older, but we matched from the first time we met,” Alvarez told Marca.
Rodri was always very clear that his life wasn’t only football, as he wanted to live a life just like anyone
Former Villarreal youth teammate Pablo Alvarez
“He’s a normal guy, very humble and with his feet on the ground, so we get on well.”
The pair were glued at the hip, playing table-tennis, watching TV and even studying together.
“Rodri was always very clear that his life wasn’t only football, as he wanted to live a life just like anyone,” Alvarez claimed.
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Like many who follow the game, his former teammate understands the Busquets comparison
“I always saw him as the successor to (Sergio) Busquets, as what he did in the reserves the next year you saw right from the youth team, as he did the same things,” he said.
Busquets’ rise came when Guardiola identified his former player’s abilities would be best served at the base of his midfield at Barcelona.
It’s clear that Pep knows a decent defensive midfielder when he sees one, so surely he’ll do wonders for Rodri too.