This kid from Osasco, Brazil just blitzed Galatasaray. Rodrygo Goes stole the show at the Santiago Bernabéu with a perfect hat-trick and one assist in Real Madrid’s 6 - 0 beatdown of the Turkish champions on Wednesday. Besides the stellar team effort, this second straight Champions League start by the 18-year-old forward was thrilling to watch from start to finish. Look out Europe, Rodrygo could become the next great number 11.
With the continued absence of Gareth Bale and stagnant form of Lucas Vásquez, Zinédine Zidane tapped Rodrygo on the right wing to join Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard in attack. Right away, his presence created an electricity in the stands and an immediate hole in Galatasaray’s defense. The first goal was an absolute beauty as he settled the ball with ease and darted a shot just inside the left post. Immediately afterwards, he hovered into the box and eventually made his way to the left side to associate with Marcelo and Hazard. As the play was building up, he ran to the penalty spot. Marcelo sent up a perfect cross and Rodrygo directed a header to the right post past the frozen Uruguayan goalkeeper Muslera. The rout was officially on inside 10 minutes and the crowd began to chant his name.
After the early offensive brilliance, Rodrygo remained diligent by tracking back to cover the space behind Dani Carvajal on defense. As play was evolving on the opposite end, he hugged the right end line in order to keep left-back Nagatomo honest. The most important defensive move made by Rodrygo was in the 45th minute when he intercepted a back pass from Nagatomo and, within seconds, rifled a pass to Benzema for the fourth goal before halftime. On the replay, Rodrygo did not look up before making that pass, which demonstrated great awareness. As if that wasn’t enough for the over 65,000 in attendance that evening, his final goal in the 92nd minute was the icing on the cake. When he received the ball above the half circle, he linked up with Benzema who completed the 1-2 and Rodrygo poked the ball past Muslera to finalize the second youngest hat trick in Club history behind Raúl González.
Poise, precision, awareness, diligence, and humility are what Rodrygo exhibited to the world on Wednesday. His rise is being championed by Madridistas far and wide. Ever since the end of last season, cries for a “roster revolution” were put on repeat. As Vinicius Jr was the shiny new toy last season, Rodrygo has more to offer and is a direct threat to both Vásquez and Bale now. He still has some areas to improve on, such as aerial crosses and counter-pressing, but he is proving the Board correct with his signing this past summer and Zidane’s decision to start him ahead of Vásquez.
One final thought: if Rodrygo continues to grow exponentially this season, should Real stall a potential signing of French right forward Kylian Mbappé? In any event, the sky’s the limit for Rodrygo.
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)