Here’s why Rodrygo hasn’t been able to nail down his spot in the Real Madrid XI

Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Rodrygo has claimed two match-winning assists in his last two outings against Barcelona and Athletic Club Bilbao respectively, which took his tally to 2 goals and 6 assists in all competitions this season. He also put in an extraordinary performance in the Supercopa De Espana which impressed the manager, and watching him play in those games might easily make any fan wonder “How has such a talented player not been a sure-shot starter for Real Madrid?”

Rodrygo was able to leave an instant impression on the fans in both his unofficial debut against Bayern Munich and the official debut against Osasuna in 2019, scoring goals in both games. He was able to convince everyone that Florentino Perez got a future superstar for 45 million euros. But two and a half years later, he is still trying to become a permanent starter in a team where his competition is from an inconsistent Marco Asensio, a half-fit Eden Hazard, and a half-interested Gareth Bale. And after six months he might find it even difficult to become a starter with Kylian Mbappe’s signing looking inevitable.

It is not like Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t trust the Brazilian because the Italian manager has a lot of faith in Rodrygo, due to which he has always looked to give the Brazilian consistent opportunities. He has started 11 out of the 24 games he has played this season, but somehow he has failed to get an extended run as a starter.

His compatriot Vinicius Jr has been a fixed starter on the left, and there wouldn’t be any doubt regarding his role in the team because of his extraordinary rise this season. Until last season he wasn’t guaranteed a starting position and got to start frequently only because of Eden Hazard’s injury woes. But at least we knew the reason why Vinicius wasn’t able to become a starter, unlike Rodrygo, whose case has always been a curious one. Let us look at the reasons why Rodrygo hasn’t been able to nail down his spot in the Real Madrid XI.

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

Rodrygo’s consistency issues have presented a chance to his competitor, Asensio

It is not difficult to predict Real Madrid’s starting XI for any game, as 10 players are definite starters, and the only unpredictable spot is that of the right-wing. Carlo Ancelotti relied on Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard to fill in that spot in the early stages of the season and saw Asensio as an attacking midfielder. But once he set up a winning system, only Asensio and Rodrygo looked like the real contenders for the only open spot.

Rodrygo was limited to only substitutional appearances at the beginning of the season, and he scored a goal against Inter Milan in one such cameo. Carlo rewarded him by giving him an opportunity to start against RCD Mallorca. He was involved in the buildup to Asensio’s first goal of a hat-trick but had an average game overall. He started the next game against Villarreal as well, but he didn’t look good and had to be subbed off at half-time.

He then started against Shakhtar Donetsk after the international break and scored a goal which prompted Ancelotti to say that it will be very tough for him to bench Rodrygo for the next game, a Clasico. He started the Clasico and assisted Alaba’s first goal. He then started the game against Elche, but an untimely hamstring injury kept him out of action, and Asensio gained the edge over him.

After his return, a period of oscillating fortunes followed, as Rordygo and Asensio would almost start in alternate games. They would impress as a substitute and then get a start in the next game, where they would be a hit or a miss and the other player would get to start the next game. No one was really able to nail down their spot in the starting XI. Asensio made a stronger case with occasional goals, and Rodrygo would chip in with occasional assists and promised a better defensive work rate.

One observation that is worrying is that Rodrygo has never played the whole 90 minutes of a game this season. This might not look like a big issue because there are players on the bench that are waiting for minutes, but there have been a handful of close games that needed last-minute goals, and Rodrygo never finished them as a starter. He needs to convince Ancelotti that he can be relied upon, and focus on his fitness as well. He had to be subbed off five times before the 70th minute, and twice at half-time.

That inability to make the best use of his opportunities comes down to Rodrygo’s inconsistency, lack of killer instinct and many more factors we will discuss below. But now, he is aiming to show consistency, putting in an impressive show in Saudi Arabia. And he can get an extended run now, with Asensio rumoured to be out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. A Gareth Bale returning from injury might compete for his spot, but it will again come down to Rodrygo’s consistency and goal output. We can only hope that he does well and finally claims the ownership rights of the right-wing spot.