REAL MADRID

Rodrygo belongs in the Champions League

Real Madrid return to Champions League action this week, the competition that Rodrygo Goes lit up last season; the Brazilian had four starts, participating in a goal every 47 minutes.

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Real Madrid open their Champions League campaign on Wednesday against Shakthar Donetsk at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano. Zinedine Zidane's side endured a disappointing run last time out for, falling to Manchester City in the last 16, however one highlight was the introduction of Brazilian wonderkid, Rodrygo Goes, on the biggest stage of European football.

The former Santos winger played five of Madrid's eight games in Europe, starting in four. In total, an impressive 331 minutes, scoring four goals and providing three assists. Direct involvement in seven goals made him finish the tournament with an average goal involvement of one goal every 47.28 minutes. These are very good numbers, and even more so for a newcomer from Brazil, who made his Madrid debut aged 18.

Rodrygo's happiest European night was his second match in the competition. He watched from the bench in Paris, as Los Blancos lost 3-0 to PSG, but on the fourth matchday on October 22, 2019, Zidane gave him a start, on a night he will never forget. Apart from combining with Karim Benzema to make it 4-0, Rodrygo scored a spectacular hat-trick against Galatasaray, aged just 18 years and 301 days. Left foot, header, and right foot. A perfect hat-trick on a perfect night for the Brazilian, who came to Europe from Flamengo, following in the footsteps of teammate Vinicius Junior.

Rodrygo, faster than Mbappé and Rooney

His record shattered that of Kylian Mbappé's, who did it at 20 years and 306 days, and Wayne Rooney at 18 years and 340 days in second place. Rodrygo was only bettered by club legend Raúl, who scored his Champions League hat-trick at the age of 18 years and 113 days. Zidane, who was taking note of the superb form shown on the continent, opted to start him in the second-leg against City, a 2-1 defeat which knocked the 13-time champions out. Rodrygo, however, showed glimpses of his magic on the night, crossing for Benzema on 28 minutes for 1-1 and in the 61st minute he was substituted. His presence in the starting eleven already demonstrated Zidane's belief in the youngster's ability to perform at the highest level, with the skill and talent required at Madrid. The Champions League returns this week and Rodrygo will be hoping for more starts and perhaps another hat-trick.