Rodrygo Goes: What makes Real Madrid's new sensation so special?
Lightening the wallet comes naturally to Real Madrid. On footballing toddlers still learning the ropes, however, it raises eyebrows aplenty. Not perturbed, Los Blancos recently splashed out £40 million for 17-year-old Rodrygo Goes. Is the Brazilian starlet really worth all that?
Real are obviously in the hunt to discover the next Neymar, despite not giving up on the original. For the time being, they have snapped up both Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior for a combined outlay of £80 million. The two youngsters are heralded to follow their famous compatriot. After missing out on Neymar to Barcelona, Madrid will do whatever necessary to prevent another gem from joining a rival.
Rodrygo's story is common among Brazilian footballers. Born into abject poverty, he was spotted playing on the street of Oscaco, a municipality in the Sao Paulo state, aged only 10. Due to his unique skill set, he initially joined Santos' futsal team. From then onwards, it became clear he was destined for stardom.
Barely one year later, Rodrygo was the face of Peixe's under-11 team. Demonstrating spectacular ability, as well as leadership traits, he signed a mega contract with sportswear giant Nike. Neymar, a precocious talent like few others in modern football, was two years older before attracting the American multinational investors.
Such overwhelming spotlight is powerful enough to turn teen heads. Not Rodrygo. The young forward remained focused, continuing his ascent in stature and pedigree. He progressed superbly through the ranks, emerging as top goalscorer at each level.
Still, Rodrygo had to wait until 16 before earning a first-team chance. He debuted against Atletico Mineiro, then featured once more that campaign.
This season has been Rodrygo's most prolific yet. He's scored five times in 10 Serie A starts, including a first-half hattrick against Victoria. Add three goals in cup matches, that's eight in all competitions. Club exploits earned him international recognition, representing both the under-17s and 20s.
What's special about the lad?
Santos has produced some exceptional South American exports. Yet only three are highly revered. Pele, Robinho and Neymar. Rodrygo is the latest inductee into that elite group. He is known as 'fourth lightning' at Vila Belmiro.
Indeed, the teenager possesses similar attributes to the acclaimed trio. He excels with the ball at feet, can perform anywhere in attack and has outstanding dribbling skills. Rodrygo's pace and quick reactions also allow him to make incisive runs forward, as well as the odd slippery turn. He plays with coltish, slightly clumsy vigour, gliding around much like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet, in terms of genuine quality, Rodrygo is nothing exceptional. He is perceived as an overhyped circus entertainer, best used in YouTube compilations. He is still to do anything extraordinary besides the usual Samba flicks.
Gabriel Barbosa received similar hype before joining Inter Milan in 2016. He has since gone into obscurity, returning to Santos on loan. Hopefully for Rodrygo, his move to Madrid turns out more successful.