September 14, 2012
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Backe sees newcomer Leite as a starter
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Rodrigo Leite walks off the Red Bulls training field on Friday with a man who is believed to be his agent and father.
Photo by Kristian Dyer
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – There’s just something about Digão.
The Red Bulls confirmed on Friday that they have signed the Brazilian center back Rodrigo Leite, also known as Diago, to a deal for the rest of Major League Soccer season. Digão is best known as the younger brother of Brazilian national team star Kaka, who has strongly been rumored to be a target of the Red Bulls since this past summer.
The 27-year-old central defender has been on trial with the club since last Friday and has impressed head coach Hans Backe with his technical acumen coupled with strong size and presence in the air.
“He’s big and strong, he’s the type of defender who can fit in this league,” coach Hans Backe told BigAppleSoccer.com. “Strong in the air, like all Brazilians he’s good with the ball. I think he can fit in.”
When asked if Digão can be a starter, Backe said “Absolutely, I think he can.”
A source close to the team said that the player can fit into the backline nicely as MLS caliber.
Digão was last under contract with A.C. Milan and was a free agent. He was brought into the Red Bulls camp along with Nicki Paterson, a central midfielder coming off an impressive season in USL PRO with Charleston.
The Brazilian will not be able to suit up for the Red Bulls against the Columbus Crew on Saturday night as he awaits his International Transfer Certificate to be able to play.
During Backe’s first year with the team in 2010, he brought in a Brazilian center back by the name of Clebao as a trialist. The big, hulking player impressed during the second half of a friendly against Juventus but terms for a deal between club and Clebao could not be reached.
Backe sees Digão as his type of defender.
“He’s a different type of player. Clebao was more of a physical [type], strong and tough,” he said. “Rodrigo is a footballer too. Tough in the 50-50s, will probably never lose a battle in the air.”