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OFFICIAL: Rodrigo Hernández signs for Atlético Madrid

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The canterano returns — as Gabi’s heir apparent.

Real Madrid v Villarreal - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

In December, it was reported that Atlético Madrid had reached an agreement for around €20-25 million to secure the signature of Villarreal’s breakthrough star Rodrigo Hernández. For a few reasons, this was a relatively unusual transfer for Atlético, who rarely can make it through a transfer saga drama-free. However, once the initial report came out, it seemed the deal was done, and there was little doubt that the signing would eventually be confirmed, and today it was.

Rodri was absolutely sensational for Villarreal this season, taking captain Bruno’s spot after his injury early in the season and never relinquishing his spot. The 21-year-old played in all but one La Liga match and was the metronome that propelled Villarreal to Europa League qualification. His status as a super-prospect was further solidified in March when Julen Lopetegui called him up to the national team, where he made his international debut for La Furia Roja.

Atlético have identified Rodri — who has been called the next Sergio Busquets — as the long-term successor to current captain Gabi, as they are both tenacious midfielders who certainly don’t mind a tackle, with Rodri averaging three per 90. He’s also extremely comfortable circulating the ball, as he averaged 90 percent pass completion this year — only two players made more successful passes than him.

This is a brilliant signing for Atlético, who got this transfer done early enough that no other clubs were able to kick the tires and potentially hijack the deal. Part of that credit must go to the club’s hierarchy, but also to Rodri, who is a Madrid native and wanted to return to his boyhood club despite his release from the academy in 2013. Although it is only May, this could prove to be Atlético’s most important signing both of this summer and of the past few, as a Koke-Saúl-Rodri trio could anchor midfield at the Wanda Metropolitano’s for the next several years.

Rodri has signed a five-year deal with a €100 million buyout clause. He will officially join the club July 1.