BLESSED with raw talent, Rodrygo Goes is the latest Brazilian sensation that has got football fans talking.
Last week Real Madrid unveiled the precocious 18-year-old after completing his signing in a £40m deal.
He will link up with another boy wonder in Vinicius Junior, but for Rodrygo success on the football pitch has been written in the stars since he was 11.
Before he hit his difficult teens, the forward was signed by sports giants Nike – becoming their youngest ever affiliated athlete.
A year before that he was touted as the next Neymar and called the best prospect since Pele, starring in a futsal team for Santos.
Even Brazilian legend Zico declared that the natural talent has “a beautiful future ahead”.
WHERE IT BEGAN
Rodrygo was born and raised in the industrial town of Osasco, which lies in the state of Sao Paulo, by a teen mum and dad.
His father Eric was a journeyman footballer, who never played in Brazil’s top flight, and concentrated on raising his son from the age of 16.
But it was in New York where sponsors took note of the prodigy in full flow.
Representing Santos in a tournament Stateside, his breathless skill meant he stood out from the crowd.
Marketing executives at Nike immediately saw dollar signs and signed Rodrygo up, making him their youngest ever athlete before he had reached the age of 12.
Even the great Neymar had to wait till he was 13 before the sports brand came a calling.
His ability defied his years, and like the PSG star, he played for Santos’ Under 13 team with kids that were much older than him and didn’t look out of place.
He was their top scorer with 20 goals, as Santos became the Sao Paulo state champions.
At the age of 14, Rodrygo was named as the best player of the Copa Nike tournament, and his rapid rise had Zico purring.
“Rodrygo boasts a lot of technical quality, ability and plays for the team,” he revealed after seeing him star for Santos’ Under 15s.
In 2017, Rodrygo made his debut for the Brazilian giants, but was limited to just two appearances in the league.
However, a year later he exploded onto the scene – playing 58 times in all competitions and bagging 12 goals and four assists.
He was awarded the Campeonato Paulista Best Newcomer trophy, and Europe’s top clubs took note.
Even France Football magazine, famous for awarding the Ballon d’Or, claimed Rodrygo was the fourth best young player in the world under 21 in a poll in December.
Third was Justin Kluivert, Chelsea’s new recruit Christian Pulisic came second and Kylian Mbappe was the obvious winner.
Off the pitch, Rodrygo lives a quiet life and his parents, who are in their mid-thirties, welcomed a baby girl to their family last year.
The Los Blancos new boy loves sharing affectionate images and video of the new addition on his Instagram page, including recently celebrating his sister’s 1-year-old birthday.
He arrives at the Bernabeu with the club in a transition period, and competition high alongside another big-money signing, the £115m costing Eden Hazard.
But club president Florentino Perez is buzzing about his new signing, insisting Real Madrid have signed “one of the great prodigies.”
“Our strategy is always about finding emerging talent, incorporating young players who want to mark an era in Real Madrid,” Perez said at a press conference for Rodrygo’s unveiling, before demanding maximum effort from his new investment.
However, Rodrygo remained calm and remembered how he had got so far.
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“I want to thank firstly God for everything he’s done for me and my family. All my family have fought with me,” he said.
“Thanks to the president and all the fans. I hope to give a lot of happiness to you. Hala Madrid.”
Destined for the top from a young age, Rodrygo is clearly ready for his next challenge. In time, we could be looking at the heir to Neymar’s throne.