Exclusive Interview: Pablo Rodríguez


Manuel Domínguez

May 11, 2021

Pablo Rodríguez scoring for Lecce

In April, Manuel Domínguez sat down with one of the breakout stars in Italian football: Pablo Rodríguez.

The Spanish striker has impressed for US Lecce in Serie B this season after joining from Real Madrid and is already garnering interest from several top-flight clubs.

Pablo Rodríguez’s Career So Far

Things can change very quickly in football. Having made just one appearance in his first six months at Lecce – scoring on his debut against Vincenza on December 27 – Pablo Rodríguez is undoubtedly making up for lost time in 2021. The former Real Madrid striker has become a crucial player for I Giallorossi, who currently sit fourth in Serie B with promotion in their sights.

With five goals and three assists, in southern Italy they have already dared to nickname him “the Inzaghi of Lecce” with reports circling about interest from Napoli, Inter and Sampdoria ahead of the summer transfer window.

Rodríguez began his playing career with local side Valsequillo, where he later made the leap to the academy of prestigious Canarias club UD Las Palmas. His performances began to turn heads and top clubs in Spain – such as Deportivo de la Coruña – made enquiries but it would be Real Madrid that brought Pablo into La Fábrica aged 15 after a successful trial.

He describes himself as a “team forward.” The teenager likes to run the channels while also having license to drop deep and link play. He tells us that he “leaves his life on the field and does not give up on any ball” – qualities that have eased his passage from the Canary Islands to the Spanish capital.

One special date has been marked in red for Rodríguez, that signals a before and after in his fledgling career: August 25, 2020. That summer afternoon, Real Madrid won the UEFA Youth League after beating Portuguese side Benfica 3-2 in the final, with Pablo scoring the opening goal of the match.

He remembers that final well, not only for tasting success but for playing without fans due to coronavirus and being managed by Real Madrid icon Raul González.

“It was a really unique experience,” he explained. “We had to play in a bubble due to COVID and many people were watching from Spain with someone like Raúl as a coach. It is the best memory I have in my career. Winning it was a dream.”

Regarding what it means to win a tournament like this, Pablo cannot avoid talking about the competition that every child aspires to win one day: the Champions League. “One dreams of playing in the Champions League. The Youth League is like a piece of that dream. And being able to score the first goal? I have no words to describe that feeling,” he explained.

But despite lifting the trophy, Youth League football is also about bringing together the best players of every generation. And on this occasion, one player stood out for Rodríguez – who captained Benfica at the time – and is now on loan at Bayern Munich: Tiago Dantas.

“I always remember that he cried and cried at the end of the game. You could see that he was a very good player and I decided to console him about the result. I told him to be calm, and that he would play a lot of finals because he was obviously going very far. Those little details are what you keep inside. I remember that moment with great affection.”

Pablo Rodríguez: Life After Real Madrid

That game was the end of Rodríguez’s five years at La Fábrica, in which players across all walks of life came and went. But the 19-year-old was keen to stress the importance of his personal journey in Madrid, alongside his footballing one.

“The most difficult thing is not to arrive, but to stay. Every year new players arrive at Real Madrid – the best players – and if you have some bad months you can be out. You cannot waste a year,” Pablo emphasises.

“Every player wants to come to Madrid, but not all of them can and that should be viewed as a privilege. The lasting memories I have of my colleagues – is of humble and hard-working people.”

The Las Palmas-born forward also spent time with Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo – two talents hand-picked from Brazil who cost the club €40 million euros each – during his solitary season with Real Madrid Castilla. “They have the same dream as everyone, which is to play in the first team,” he explained. “Millionaire signings? They were just another team-mate, wanting to integrate and be comfortable with their new surroundings.”

Before finishing the interview, Rodríguez was asked what three lessons he valued most from his time at Real Madrid and was quick to answer.

“The first thing is maturity. The values you learn there allow you to improve as a person – no amount of money can pay for that. The second is the people, new friends and family that I will hopefully keep close for many years and finally pride.

“The club teaches you to embrace what it means to represent Real Madrid, the badge and the example you set for others. Values that are learned within the residence are unique.”

Rodríguez talks fondly of his Real Madrid past but now everything is being geared towards his future, with eyes on set on Lecce and their long-awaited return to the top-flight. Many players lose themselves in the shadows after leaving such famed academies, however the spotlight remains firmly on him.

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