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PETE JENSON: Kirian Rodriguez will captain Las Palmas against Barcelona on Saturday just one year after cancer diagnosis

  • Las Palmas star Kirian Rodriguez was diagnosed with cancer last year  
  • The midfielder will captain Las Palmas against Barcelona on Saturday
  • Secrets of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s £2,500-a-night suite in Manchester – Listen to the It’s All Kicking Off podcast 

Las Palmas want to catch out Barcelona off the back of the international break this Saturday and they will do so with a manager who used to coach Barça; a player Barcelona have shown and interest in signing; and a captain who has made an incredible comeback from serious illness to become one of the players of this season.

A cancer diagnosis made the world stop for Kirian Rodriguez last season but on Saturday he will wear the captain’s armband away at Barcelona as La Liga’s second highest-scoring midfielder.

Only Jude Bellingham with 16 goals has scored more than Kirian whose form ahead of the visit to the Olympic Stadium meant he made the pre-list for the Spain squad ahead of their recent friendlies against Brazil and Colombia.

Las Palmas’ talented winger Alberto Moleiro has praised his skipper’s extraordinary mental strength saying: ‘Last year was hard for all of us and obviously for him more than anyone. But he was actually the one reassuring us. His attitude was amazing and his capacity to overcome what he overcame was inspiring.’

Kirian announced he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the start of last season. His treatment ruled him out for the rest of 2022 but once he was given the all-clear to play again he worked to make his way back into the team playing again in April to help the team win promotion.

Kirian Rodriguez will captain Las Palmas against Barcelona just over a year after being diagnosed with cancer
Rodriguez announced shock news he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the start of last season
Only Jude Bellingham has scored more goals from midfield in LaLiga than Rodriguez this season

That seemed like the end of the story but this season his six goals from midfield have helped turn Las Palmas into one of the surprise packages who even stunned Barcelona earlier in the season taking the lead against them only for Barça to claw back a 2-1 victory.

‘He’s a top player and it’s incredible what he has achieved,’ added Moleiro. 

‘His attitude from the very beginning was great. He is playing so well this season and was chosen in the pre-list for the Spain squad. He deserves it all. We get on really well and I’m so happy to see the good things that are happening to him now.’

Barcelona desperately need the home win on Saturday to keep up their hopes of challenging Real Madrid for the title. 

But first games back after international breaks can be difficult and if they are to beat Las Palmas they will have to stop Kirian’s midfield goal-threat and the trickery of Moleiro whose progress they have monitored over the last couple of seasons.

The 20-year-old is tipped to be the next big player to emerge from Las Palmas after Pedri left the club to join Barcelona in 2020.

‘I get compared to Pedri,’ he said. ‘He left one year before I started playing for the first team. I feel really proud when people compare me with him but we are very different as players.’

‘The club has been everything to me,’ added the winger who has also attracted interest from Premier League clubs. ‘This is the team that gave me the chance to grow as a player and to play professionally and I will always be thankful for that.’

Las Palmas’ talented winger Alberto Moleiro has attracted interest from Premier League clubs
The 20-year-old has been a revelation for the newly-promoted side this season
Moleiro has attracted comparisons with Barcelona star Pedri, who came through the academy at Las Palmas before joining the Catalans in 2020

READ MORE: Endrick and Lamine Yamal were born before the explosion of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s era in Spain but they’re set for another rivalry for the ages… the starlets will shape Real Madrid and Barcelona’s destiny 

Las Palmas Sporting Director Luis Helguera told Mail Sport that the club does not need to rush to sell its latest homegrown sensation.

‘We are a financially stable club and truly believe in the development of players,’ said Helguera. ‘We can say no to the offers we receive because financially we are healthy.’

Helguera believes that if Moleiro’s rise continues and he does move away he will continue to be testament to Las Palmas excellent youth set-up.

The Las Palmas Sporting Director said: ‘It’s good to see players like Pedri go on and play for Barcelona because they continue to represent us. Our concern is to continue developing players. Pedri left and now we have Moleiro!’

Las Palmas have been likened to Barcelona for their playing style this season and it is little wonder with former Barça forwards Sandro and Munir in their attack and one-time long-serving Barcelona youth team coach Francisco Garcia Pimienta in charge.

Las Palmas are 11th in LaLiga this season and led Barcelona 1-0 in the reverse fixture in January (above), before losing 2-1

‘The manager wants us all to want the ball and show personality in possession,’ said Moliero of the clear philosophy that runs through the team. 

‘That goes for the goalkeeper and runs right through the side. We all believe in that style of play and you can see that on the pitch.’

Europe might be too much to ask in Las Palmas’ first season back in the top division but if they beat Barcelona they will have clocked up 40 points with eight games to spare and safety will have been assured well ahead of time.

‘Once we have reached the 40-point mark we can start looking up,’ said Moliero. ‘Of course it would be great for this club to get into Europe.’

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