Rodrygo is 18 years old and was making just his second Champions League appearance, but the Real Madrid forward had the type of game that most professionals can only dream of.
A perfect hat-trick. Real Madrid right winger Rodrygo needed just seven minutes to score two goals, marking an improvement from last week’s game against Leganes in which he set the tone for a 5-0 blowout by scoring the first goal in the seventh minute.
And while Rodrygo didn’t dispatch the penalty to make it 3-0, he obtained his hat-trick the “old fashioned” way in the 92nd minute of stoppage time to put one last exclamation mark on a 6-0 blowout over Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu.
That means Real Madrid saw an improvement of five goals between this fixture and their cagey 1-0 win in Istanbul a couple of weeks ago. Rodrygo earned his first career Champions League appearance (and start) in that win over Galatasaray, showing his talent in that outing. He was simply on a celestial level this Wednesday night.
Along the way to earning a hat trick, Rodrygo set up Karim Benzema for the 4-0 goal late in the first half with a delightful piece of defending. Rodrygo, who recorded four interceptions in the first win over Galatasaray, picked off a poor back-pass and sent in an instinctive low cross to Benzema, who tapped home Real’s fourth.
Whether it was his three goals or lone assist, Rodrygo didn’t just show a transcendent level of technical class. No, the 18-year-old forward also showed a level of mental processing that was several steps ahead of the opposition defense. He has an uncanny ability to read the game that even seasoned veterans don’t possess – let alone 18-year-olds with just a handful of senior-level appearances in Europe’s top flight.
Rodrygo is a special player, and comparisons to any of his teammates or any other prospects in the continent do not serve him well. He is his own man with his own unique traits, especially in terms of his defensive work rate and off-ball movement.
For example, the third goal he scored was the result of an ingenious one-two in which Rodrygo first led the counterattack and then found the exact right angle for his run to receive the return pass from Benzema. Meanwhile, his second goal, which was a well-taken header, came after he perfectly navigated a crowded penalty area to get into a wide open position.
Both the statistics and the film show evidence that Rodrygo is the caliber of player that Real Madrid can help build a juggernaut around. These types of nights in the Champions League are a dream for any player, but especially for an 18-year-old with little first-team experience. Rodrygo is well on his way to rewriting record books in Madrid, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let us simply bask in his greatness.