Full name: Ricardo Rodriguez
Date of birth: 25 August 192
Place of birth: Zürich, Switzerland
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
National team: Switzerland
Agent: Sport 11 AG
Joined: 1 July 2017
Contract until: 30.06.2021
Ricardo Iván Rodríguez Araya is a Swiss professional footballer who plays as a left back for Italian club Milan. He has been described as an accomplished defender and is noted for his strong heading ability, and ability to deliver pinpoint crosses. Rodríguez is also noted for his speciality in set piece situations and for penalty-taking abilities.
Born to a Spanish father and a Chilean mother of Basque descent, Ricardo Rodriguez began his professional career at local club FC Zürich in 2010, having spent eight years in the youth setup. After breaking through into the first team at Zürich, Rodríguez was sold to VfL Wolfsburg in January 2012 for £7.5 million. He played 184 games across all competitions for Wolfsburg, scoring 22 goals and winning the DFB-Pokal and DFL-Supercup in 2015. In 2017, he signed for A.C. Milan.
Ricardo Rodriguez has earned caps at every level of the Swiss national team setup, winning the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2009. A full international for Switzerland since 2011, Rodríguez has earned over 40 caps for the country. He was part of the Swiss team at the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2016. In 2014, he was voted Swiss Footballer of the Year.
Rodríguez was born in Zürich to a Spanish father and a Chilean mother. His mother, Marcela Araya, died of cancer in 2015. Rodriguez had the number 68, the year of her birth, tattooed on his back. Rodriguez was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, meaning that his stomach, spleen, liver and intestine had migrated into the chest. Rodriguez was given a 50% chance of survival and was monitored every six months for the first three years of his life. He is the younger brother of FC Zürich midfielder Roberto Rodríguez and the older brother of midfielder Francisco Rodríguez, who plays for FC Luzern.
AC Milan career
On 8 June 2017, it was announced that Ricardo Rodriguez joined Italian Serie A club A.C. Milan on a four-year deal. The fee was reported as €15 million plus €2 million in bonuses. He chose the number 68 shirt, after the year his mother was born.
Ricardo Rodriguez played his first official match for Milan and managed to score his first goal, a free kick, to win the first leg of Milan’s Europa League qualification match against CS U Craiova on 27 July. He also played in the second leg the following week and assisted Patrick Cutrone’s goal from the set piece as Milan beat their opponent 2–0. Ricardo Rodriguez made his Serie A debut in a 3–0 home victory against Crotone on 21 August, and his first league goal came from a penalty kick in a 2–0 win against SPAL at the San Siro on 20 September. On 15 October in the Derby della Madonnina, he gave away a late penalty from which Mauro Icardi completed his hat-trick to win the game 3–2 for Inter.
Ricardo Rodriguez began playing football at the highly regarded youth club FC Schwamendingen in 2001 before joining the youth setup of FC Zürich as an 11-year-old in 2002. He was promoted to the senior squad in 2009 at age 16, making the bench for Zürich’s 2–3 defeat to NK Maribor in the first leg of their third qualifying round Champions League tie on 29 July 2009.
He made his Zürich debut as a 17-year-old in the 25th round of the Swiss Super League on 21 March 2010, replacing the injured Hannu Tihinen in the first half of the 2–0 win over Bellinzona. His full debut came in the Zürich Derby against Grasshoppers on 5 April, playing the entire 3–2 win for the hosts.
He made only his second start in the first match of the Swiss Super League season on 20 July 2010, playing the full 90 minutes in a 2–3 defeat to rivals FC Basel. On 28 April 2011, he scored his first professional goal for the club, opening the scoring for the hosts as they ran out 3–0 winners over Neuchâtel Xamax at the Letzigrund.
Rodríguez made his European debut in the first-leg of their third qualifying round tie against Standard Liège on 27 July 2011. He played the entire match and provided the cross for fellow Zürich youth team graduate Admir Mehmedi as the Swiss secured a 1–1 draw at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne in Belgium. In the second leg, Ricardo Rodriguez missed from an open goal from close range but Zürich won 1–0 to earn a spot in the play-off round against Bayern Munich. He played the entirety of both play-off matches against Bayern, but the Swiss side fell 0–3 on aggregate and dropped into the Europa League.
On 26 October 2011, Rodríguez scored his second goal for the club, netting his side’s second from the penalty spot, in a 2–0 win over FC Thun. The club’s final Super League match before the winter break on 10 December 2011, turned out to be Rodríguez’s last in a Zürich shirt, playing the entire 1–1 draw with FC Sion. On 11 January 2012, Zürich officials announced that the club had accepted a bid for Rodríguez by German side Wolfsburg and that he was on the verge of completing the transfer, subject to a medical. Despite being sold midway through the season, Rodríguez was voted as the Fans’ Player of the Season on 4 June 2012, ahead of Oliver Buff and Pedro Henrique.
VfL Wolfsburg purchased Ricardo Rodriguez as a 19-year-old on 13 January 2012 for £7.5 million with the player signing a four-and-a-half-year deal. He quickly asserted himself into the first-team lineup, making his Bundesliga debut the next day against 1. FC Köln, a 1–0 victory for the Wolves. Ricardo Rodriguez went on to play every game of the season from that point on without being substituted, becoming a favorite on the left of the defense for manager Felix Magath.
Through the first ten league games of the following campaign, Rodríguez was once again an ever-present in the squad, featuring in all the outings, starting eight. But Magath was sacked after a poor run of form in the league and when Lorenz-Günther Köstner was installed as interim manager, the more experienced Marcel Schäfer was preferred at left back. Once Dieter Hecking was appointed manager though, Ricardo Rodriguez won his place back in the first team.
On 9 November 2013, he scored his first goal for Wolfsburg, from a direct free kick in a home Bundesliga match against Borussia Dortmund. The match ended in a 2–1 win for Wolfsburg, although they were losing at half-time. His second goal for Wolfsburg came from the penalty spot against Hamburg on 29 November, earning his side a 1–1 draw. He opened the scoring in their Bundesliga match on 14 December, curling the ball past keeper Sven Ulreich, as Wolfsburg won 3–1.
He finished the 2013–14 season with five league goals, in addition to nine assists. He failed to make it into the Bundesliga Team of the Season, but was included in a list of the Best Defenders for the 2013–14 campaign. Rodríguez’s nine assists also meant that he created more goals than any other full-back in Europe. His impressive displays during the season included 2.3 key passes per game, the same number as Andrea Pirlo, the two-time reigning Serie A Footballer of the Year, and 2.6 successful dribbles per game, more than Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner.
Rodríguez taking a free-kick for Wolfsburg.
He scored his first ever goal in European football for Wolfsburg on 18 September 2014, netting directly from a free-kick after having previously scored an own-goal in a 4–1 defeat to English side Everton. Three days later, Rodriguez scored twice more for Wolfsburg, once from the penalty spot and a volley from a Kevin De Bruyne corner, as Wolfsburg defeated Bayer Leverkusen 4–1. He scored his third league goal of the season against Werder Bremen on 27 September, converting a De Bruyne cross to put Wolfsburg up 1–0 in an eventual 2–1 victory.
In October 2014, Rodríguez was ruled out for a number of weeks with a troubled patella tendon and thigh. On 31 October, his agent, Roger Wittman, confirmed that Rodríguez and Wolfsburg had opened contract talks to extend his current deal beyond 2016. Ricardo Rodriguez scored twice in Wolfsburg’s 3–0 win away to Lille on 11 December, a result which advanced his side into the Europa League knockout stage instead of their opponents. In January 2015, he signed a new contract up to June 2019. He scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot on 7 April, as Wolfsburg defeated SC Freiburg to reach the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal, also making a goalline clearance later on. In the final on 30 May, he played the full 90 minutes as Wolfsburg won their first cup, defeating Borussia Dortmund 3–1.
Rodríguez played the full 90 minutes of Wolfsburg’s victory over Bayern Munich in the 2015 DFL-Supercup on 1 August, scoring their first attempt in the penalty shootout after a 1–1 draw.
On 28 August 2015, he managed to score his first goal of the season against from the spot. He also assisted Tim Klose’s goal later in that match as Wolfsburg beat Schalke 3–0. He scored another penalty in a 2–1 loss against Borussia Dortmund on 5 December.
On 6 April 2016, as Wolfsburg hosted Real Madrid in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the season’s Champions League, Ricardo Rodriguez scored a penalty to open a surprise 2–0 victory. By sending Keylor Navas the wrong way, he was the first player to score against Real’s goalkeeper in the tournament for 738 minutes.
On 20 August 2016, Rodríguez played his first game of the season in a 2–1 win over FSV Frankfurt in DFB-Pokal. He also played Wolfsburg’s opening Bundesliga match of the season, in which he scored a freekick in a 2–0 win over Augsburg.
In January 2017, Ricardo Rodriguez was a target for Inter Milan and agreed to a move, but the Italian club refused to pay a fee high enough to trigger his release clause of £18.5 million.
In 2009, he was part of the Swiss U17 team who won the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup. His first goal of the tournament came in Switzerland’s second group game against Japan on 27 October 2009, netting the winning goal as the match ended 4–3. He opened the scoring for the Swiss in the 35th minute against Germany in the Round of 16 as Switzerland eventually won 4–3 in added extra time. In the semi-finals against Colombia, he scored Switzerland’s final goal of their 4–0 win to reach their first final of a FIFA competition since a 3–0 loss to Uruguay in the 1924 Olympics. He played the entire final against Nigeria on 15 November, helping Switzerland to a 1–0 victory to become just the third European nation to lift the trophy.
Rodríguez made his debut for Switzerland in a Euro 2012 qualifying match against Wales on 7 October 2011, replacing Xherdan Shaqiri in the second half of the 0–2 loss. In his full debt four days later, Rodríguez played the entire match as the Swiss defeated Montenegro 2–0 to end their qualification campaign on a high, despite missing out on a playoff spot to the Balkan side. In a friendly match against the Netherlands on 11 November, he played the entire match as the Swiss kept a clean sheet in Amsterdam.
He played all three matches for Switzerland at the 2012 Olympics, in which they were eliminated in the group stage.
Rodríguez featured in nine of ten World Cup qualifying matches for the Swiss, totaling 810 minutes, as they qualified for the World Cup with a game to spare, thanks to a 2–1 win over Albania on 11 October 2013. On 13 May 2014, Rodríguez was named in Switzerland’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In their opening group game against Ecuador on 15 June, he took the corner which was headed by Admir Mehmedi for the equaliser, as well as crossing for Haris Seferović to score the winner in a 2–1 victory. During the tournament finals in Brazil, he averaged 5 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game, earning plaudits for his strong tackling as well as his ability to read the game.
At UEFA Euro 2016 in France, Ricardo Rodriguez played every minute as Switzerland reached the last 16. They were eliminated on penalties by Poland in Saint-Étienne, although Rodríguez scored his attempt.
On 8 October 2016, he scored his first international goal on his 43rd cap, putting the Swiss into the lead in a 3–2 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying win over Hungary at the Groupama Arena. He netted another penalty on 3 September 2017 to conclude a 3–0 away win over Latvia. The Swiss finished second in their group behind Portugal, qualifying for the play-offs where they faced Northern Ireland. Rodríguez scored the only goal of the tie in the first leg at Windsor Park in Belfast, when a penalty was controversially awarded against Corry Evans. In the second leg in Basel, he made a goalline clearance from a Jonny Evans header to ensure the Swiss victory.
He was included in the Switzerland national football team 23 man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Due to his wide range of skills, Rodríguez is known for being equally adept at defending as he is going forward. Although usually a left-back, his size and physique have also seen him be deployed as a centre-back on occasion. Experts consider him as an accomplished defender and note his strong heading ability, as well his personality. He is also considered a continual attacking threat, and has been noted by analysts for his exceptional stamina and pace, which allow for his constant, buccaneering runs up the wing he has also drawn praise from pundits for rarely conceding careless fouls. Conversely, he has been criticised for giving too much room to opposition attackers, taking up poor positioning and lacking in defensive discipline, while other analysts have criticised his concentration.
Possessing good technique and distribution, he has become known for his pinpoint crossing and accurate left foot, which have earned him comparisons with Everton and England left back Leighton Baines. He is also noted for his speciality in dead ball situations, such as corner kicks, direct free kicks, and indirect free kicks, as well as for his excellent penalty taking abilities, emerging as Wolfsburg’s first-choice penalty taker during the 2013–14 season. In 2014, his manager Dieter Hecking praised Rodríguez as “the best left-back in the Bundesliga”.