“When I remember my childhood, I see that football was a very important part of it. I was trying to play football before and after school, and my passion got me through all the difficulties I faced during my career,” Rodrygo told Goal when he was awarded the NxGn title as the best emerging football talent in the world.
If we follow the path of the 19-year-old, we find that everything begins with his love and passion for the game, which saw him rise out of junior futsal in his native Brazil and elevate him to the Real Madrid first team. Despite being hailed as the “new Neymar” when he was just 12-years-old, his big break came in 2017 when he was called up to the Santos training squad.
He seized his chance to impress and by the end of the 2017 campaign, he was part of the Santos squad, making his debut in the Brazilian Serie A against Clube Atlético Mineiro.
From there he blossomed, as his playing time grew, so did his goalscoring exploits. He became the youngest Brazilian to score in the Copa Libertadores aged just 17. His performances quickly attracted the attention of Europe’s elite clubs, and in June 2019 it was Real Madrid who won the race to his signature, paying a rumoured fee of around €45 million for his services.
Rodrygo’s path to Los Blancos was not an easy one, and he did not rely on his talent alone to achieve his dreams. The young Brazilian admitted in an exclusive interview with Goal that he struggled to deal with the nomadic lifestyle of his childhood, as his footballer father drifted around the lower leagues of Brazilian football.
“I always cried because of that, because we were sometimes in different cities,” he told Goal. “It was my biggest difficulty, but at the same time, it helped me mature a lot.”
Rodrygo confessed that he spent the day of his 17th birthday practicing like any other day, and that meeting at the end of the day with his family was only to “avoid the passage of such a day without doing anything”. Those details may seem small, but they reveal the keys of Rodrygo’s successive successes in his football career.
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He became the youngest player in the history of the UEFA Champions League to score a hat-trick (vs Galatasaray, at the age of 18 years and 301 days) and has since gone on to score nine goals in 18 games in all competitions.
Despite his already considerable achievements, Rodrygo’s career is only just beginning, a point he’s well aware of.
“I look straight at the club crest in the changing room, I look at my shirt and think: ‘Wow! I’m at Real Madrid!’. I think it’s good for me as it helps me keep my feet on the ground.”