Real Madrid: Is it time to give Rodrygo Goes a big chance after the break?

Real Madrid, Rodrygo (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Rodrygo (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have a secret weapon in their squad, and his name is Rodrygo Goes.

There needs to be a delicate balancing act with the forward positions at Real Madrid. The club has a legendary No. 9 who is leading the team in goals and assists (again) in Karim Benzema, a superstar left winger who truly makes the team dangerous in Eden Hazard, two special prospects in Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes, a well-liked and talented left-footer in Marco Asensio, and two talented backup strikers in Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz.

Finding a way to play all those guys while prioritizing Benzema and Hazard as starters is a challenge for Zinedine Zidane. And it naturally frustrates fans when the young guys don’t get enough playing time.

Rodrygo is the most interesting of the young players, even as Jovic grabs headlines for his lack of playing time, which included being substituted after Mariano at the Mestalla.

And Rodrygo is the most interesting because he’s also barely played for Real Madrid this season, yet he’s produced at a high level. Rodrygo has just 155 minutes played with one start and four appearances off the bench. To compare, Vinicius has nearly triple the number of La Liga minutes as his fellow young winger.

Rodrygo Goes hasn’t played much this season for Real Madrid, but he’s been productive

Quietly, Rodrygo has three assists in the league to go with his game-winning goal against Inter Milan. The 19-year-old showed true star ability in 2019-2020 as a first-year Madridista, scoring within seconds of his debut vs. Osasuna before nailing a perfect hat-trick in the Champions League vs. Galatasaray.

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There were lulls along the way, including a second spell with Castilla, but the signing from Santos showed that he can be a big star for Real Madrid one day. And thus, he was expected to take another step forward in terms of playing time in 2020-2021.

Annoyingly, that hasn’t happened for Rodrygo. Of course, his path to playing time has been more difficult. Asensio is a more natural right winger, as he can cut inside on his left and score.

Rodrygo is sufficient on the right due to his football intelligence, work rate, accurate short passing, unselfishness, composure, and pinpoint crossing. But he doesn’t score and doesn’t excite as much on the ball, especially as compared to when he plays on the left.

That said, Rodrygo has provided assists and goals as a right winger this season when called off the bench, whereas the more experienced Asensio has zero goals and zero assists.

Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes
Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Rodrygo has two paths to playing time at Real Madrid going forward

Now that Asensio stat can mislead, since he helped create Vinicius Junior’s goal against Real Valladolid and had some bright moments in other games this season. But he’s also had a few dreadful perfomances. It’s fair to say that Asensio has not looked half as good as he did this summer when he gave Real Madrid a real shot of attacking quality post-injury.

Rodrygo has two things going for him. Firstly, if Eden Hazard has to miss more time for any reason – this past weekend, it was due to COVID-19 – Rodrygo could force his way into starts on the left. Vinicius has two goals in La Liga this season, but he’s also turned in some subdued performances recently, looking less electric on the ball. While I firmly believe Real should stand by Vini, Zidane may want to see what Rodrygo can do.

There’s a second thing to consider. While I have argued that Rodrygo needs to play more on the left when possible, I also recognize that it’s not necessarily “possible” with Hazard and Vini. Real Madrid probably don’t want to kick Hazard to the right or in a central role, as that’s too much of a schematic shift. And Vinicius needs to play on the left even more than Rodrygo.

So if Asensio continues to struggle to provide an end product, especially in terms of his chance-creation, then Zidane could call on Rodrygo. Recall that last season, Real were at their best in the Fall when Hazard, Benzema, and Rodrygo all started together. Those three attacking players were unselfish, tactically brilliant, and capable of providing and finishing chances. Hazard and Benzema took so much attention on the right that Rodrygo had plenty of space to find goals on the right.

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After the November international break, Los Blancos must face two tough tests against Villarreal and Inter Milan at the San Siro. Rodrygo could be the man who helps Real get the most out of both fixtures. On the right, he is the calm in the storm of the game. And on the left, he is an exciting attacker capable of conjuring magic from thin air. In many ways, Real Madrid need a little bit of both right now.