Imps Director of Football Jez George was at Meadow Lane last night, reportedly watching 25-year-old Notts County attacker Ruben Rodrigues.
The striker has been linked with the Imps before, and he’s not short of suitors; it’s believed both Rotherham and Portsmouth have also watched the striker. Mansfield boss Nigel Clough was there, but he’s likely to have been watching FA Cup opponents Rochdale given their League Two status.
The Magpies were downed 2-1, but the result will not have mattered to Jez George, who is set to be a busy man this next month or two. Christmas shopping isn’t on his list; it’s the January sales interesting our DoF. Rodrigues is expected to be on the move, despite a reluctance to part with him in the summer. Seven goals in 17 appearances have alerted scouts to his ability, and he’s likely to be entering the last eight weeks or so of his Notts County career.
Rodrigues has been in great form for the Magpies in the National League this season, hitting a last-gasp winner against our one-time local rivals Grimsby Town in October The Portuguese forward has recently been deployed as a second striker for County, with great effect. He scored five in seven matches heading into November, and that’s not only attracted our interest, but also that of League One rivals Rotherham United.
It seems as though they may have wanted him in the summer; speaking to a Portuguese paper, but reported by Nottingham Live, he admitted he had been the subject of a bid in the summer. “If I make it to League One, I’ll be very happy especially when you see where I came from,” Rodrigues told sportnieuws.nl. “At the end of last season, there was interest from a club that had been relegated from the Championship, they had even made an official offer. But the club did not agree. You come to England to make that step up. But on the other hand, it also says a lot that the club really wants to keep me. I also know that if I do even better this year, there will be even more interest next year.”
Rodrigues, described as ‘bewitching’ on the ball by former Imps reporter Leigh Curtis, was born in Portugal but moved to the Netherlands as a youth. He played for Wilhelmina Boys before a year with VV Gemert. That led to a trial with Eerste Divisie side Den Bosch, a team at the same level as Lewis Montsma and Lewis Fiorini’s former clubs. In 2018/19, he was loaned to De Treffers where he bagged four goals in 17, but the following season he made his mark with his parent club.
He netted 12 goals in 28 outings, leading to a move to County in August 2020. Last season, he scored 13 in 41, and was awarded the league’s Player of the Month award for May 2021, as well as the Magpies Fan’s Player of the Year. This season he has picked up where he left off with a strong run of form, but he won’t be leaving on the cheap – he’s got a contract that runs until the end of next season. That has led their supporters to talk of a six-figure transfer fee, and that could be the stumbling block. At 25, is that good value? We might snobbily think not for a striker in the National League, but you only have to think back to Jamie Vardy, Craig Mackail-Smith, Aaron Maclean and George Boyd to know it can be great value.
Whether we’re willing to take the risk is one thing, whether we can beat off the interest from the Millers is another entirely.