These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts — are now a regular thing. All previous editions can be found here.
With just a minute plus injury time remaining in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals, Real Madrid found themselves virtually out of the competition, trailing by two goals on aggregate to Manchester City. Rodrygo Goes, 12th man supreme, started his signature diagonal off-ball run. He drifted in from the left and cut past Bernardo Silva into the box. Once the ball shifted to the right side and arrived at Eduardo Camavinga’s feet, the Brazilian decelerated his run in anticipation of the ball arriving at the far post. It does, at the feet of Karim Benzema, who hit the ball across goal first time. By then, Rodrygo was waiting to pounce, and his run was clever enough to catch every single Manchester City defender napping. It seemed easy to mark him, but if it was that easy, someone — in some game somewhere — would’ve figured out Rodrygo’s diagonal runs by now, but they go completely undetected on defensive radars across Europe.
The goal Rodrygo scored in minute 90 gave Real Madrid and the Bernabeu belief. His goal just one minute later almost seemed inevitable from there. Rodrygo had done it again, one round on from his crucial goal against Chelsea with the season on the line.
Rodrygo, a fledging who’s barely begun his Real Madrid career arc, has proven he has the clutch Champions League gene in him already, presumably implanted into him by the footballing gods. He has the main pre-requisite of being a star at the most historically-decorated football club that ever existed, and that is the possession cold blood. If you have the talent in you boots, character on your shoulders, and the composure of Leonidis during battle, you’ll likely get a contract here, and Rodrygo has.
As reported by Marca today, Rodrygo will extend with Real Madrid until 2028, receive a raise, and have the ‘kindly don’t inquire’ release clause of one billion.
The contract is a deserved reward and a message of faith. Everything the club saw in the Brazilian winger last season, particularly in the Champions League, ticked boxes. What everyone around Europe witnessed is backed up in the numbers. Rodrygo simply exudes efficiency in Europe, where he produced 1.25 goals + assists per 90 in the Champions League this season. What those numbers don’t tell you were that three of his goals were with the season on the line. He is good. He is clutch. Above all, he is beloved, and fits with the rest of the character guys the club is building around. He is one of the ones that contributed to this season’s famed culture and prolifically-told tale that this is one of the most unified Real Madrid teams that has ever existed.
The seeds of Rodrygo’s efficiency were planted a year prior, for those taking note. He had .68 goals + assists per 90 in the 2020 - 2021 season — the most of any first-team player in the squad not named Karim Benzema.
The hope is that now, he can contribute even more — not just in Europe and not just when the team desperately needs him, but on a week-to-week grind. He will have those keys now. Kylian Mbappe stayed in Paris; Real Madrid have yet to sign a replacement star right-winger (though, there is a small chance that changes before the season starts), and Marco Asensio could be on his way out, and if he isn’t, he has lost his place.
The club have put their stance on Rodrygo publicly and proudly. In an interview on Spanish TV in June, Florentino Perez said “Rodrygo will blow people’s minds”.
Rodrygo is a rising star, irrespective of Mbappe’s arrival. He would’ve likely been the first attacker off the bench had the Frenchman arrived. His curve will be accelerated now. Going for a plan-B right winger is risky. Finding the perfect guy who is attainable but also hits the sweet spot in his age, demands, and talent is difficult. Had Rodrygo not been in the team, signing someone could be more straightforward. Mbappe is good enough to justify bringing in and giving the keys to. Handing out big contracts to others is risky. Handing out one last contract to a star-winger over 30 doesn’t always go down well. That’s one side of the sword, anyway. Another side is Rodrgyo himself. How good, cheap, and young does a winger have to be in order to justify taking minutes away from the Brazilian? These are important thought-exercises in a world of pragmatism, development, continuity, and unity.
Extending Rodrygo now is good assurance for the future, and guarantees the young core stays together for years. It is a good, calculated bet on a talented kid.