Real Madrid eye Botafogo’s Matheus as potential Benzema successor
As they prepare for life after Karim Benzema, Real Madrid are keeping close tabs on 18-year-old Botafogo forward Matheus Nascimento.
Real Madrid continue to pursue young prospects from around the world as they look to a future beyond veteran stars such as Karim Benzema and Luka Modric. Thanks to the keen eye for talent boasted by Madrid scout Juni Calafat, who was responsible for bringing in Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo Goes and Fede Valverde - three cornerstones of Carlo Ancelotti’s current, successful Madrid team - the generational handover at the Bernabéu is firmly on track.
AS understands that another promising starlet on Calafat’s radar is Matheus Nascimento, an 18-year-old Brazilian centre-forward who currently plays for Botafogo. The Madrid news site Defensacentral.com was the first to make known Matheus’ name in December 2021, by which point he had already made his debut for Botafogo. The youngster was 17 at the time, and was already starting to offer up evidence of his attacking quality in the Brazilian league. On Sunday, he was involved as his team beat Internacional 3-2, head coach Luís Castro bringing him on for the final minutes as the Estrela Solitaria came from behind to win. Given his youth, he is yet to command a regular starting place, but he is steadily forcing his way into Castro’s plans.
Matheus would begin life at Madrid in Castilla squad
Were Matheus to join Madrid, he would initially play for the ‘B’ team, Real Madrid Castilla, a team coached by club legend Raúl. As was also the case with his compatriots Vinícius, Rodrygo and Reinier, Matheus is a player who would need a period of adaptation in the Castilla squad. The traits that attract Madrid to the teenager are that he is a modern number nine, a tall yet agile player with good technique and an excellent capacity for linking up with the wingers either side of him, and with attacking midfielders arriving late into the danger area. He’s a forward more reminiscent of Benzema, who combines goals and build-up play, than out-and-out strikers such as Luka Jovic and Mariano Díaz.
By signing Matheus, who would take up one of the spots available to non-EU players, Madrid would be investing in their future. In no more than two or three years, Los Blancos will need to find a successor to Benzema. Manchester City’s Erling Haaland could arrive in 2024, when his 150-million-euro get-out clause takes effect, but at the same time Madrid are out to continue their transfer policy of finding young talent at a good price and turning them into stars once at the club.
50-million-euro release clause in Matheus’ contract
According to Transfermarkt.com, Matheus is currently worth seven million euros, but when Botafogo handed the forward his first professional contract in 2020, a deal due to run until 2023, they included a 50m-euro buy-out clause.
Matheus made his Botafogo first-team bow on 6 September 2021, coming on in the 80th minute of a 2-2 home draw with Corinthians. At just 16 years, six months and three days old, he became the Rio de Janeiro club’s youngest ever debutant. He scored more than 150 goals for Botafogo at age-group level, and has netted twice since making his first senior appearance.