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Rodri’s attacking evolution is helping to fill Man City void

It was neither Rodri’s most significant Champions League goal of 2023 nor his most important strike of the season. And yet, as Manchester City began their defence of their continental crown, perhaps it was fitting that it was capped by a finish from the man who delivered the strike that secured their holy grail.

The scourge of Internazionale in Istanbul, Rodri finished off Red Star Belgrade in Manchester. He did so in style, too, exchanging passers with Phil Foden, embarking on a solo run and placing a shot in. It was an indication that the defensive midfielder, the man who has always amassed passes, has now started to trade in goals as well: four in nine games, going back to the Champions League final.

If some – April’s opener against Bayern Munich, the decider against Inter, the recent winner at Sheffield United – are signs of stature, of the capacity to seize the initiative, there is also evidence of a more attacking bent. If Rodri is getting forward more, it may be because he is finding his duties at the base of the midfield too easy. Or perhaps because, without Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, he recognises the need to compensate for the absence of two talismanic figures and has the ability to do so.

Whichever, the footballer named the Champions League’s player of the season last year helped avert a major shock at the start of this campaign’s competition. Zvezda had half-time to savour a lead at the Etihad Stadium, to contemplate the thought that, five years to the day since City lost to Lyon, they could end a long unbeaten home run in Europe. Perhaps predictably, they did not and it may prove to be a painful double header for the Glazers involving the Manchester clubs in the Champions League.

While the American