Real Madrid forward Rodrygo Goes is part of the future at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Zinedine Zidane knows it.
Although Real Madrid signed Eden Hazard in the 2019 summer transfer window as their next Galactico, Zinedine Zidane‘s first transfer class in his second stint as Los Blancos’ manager was more about the youth movement.
In total, Real spent 300 million euros on incoming players, adding some of the best young players in the world in Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo Goes.
Rodrygo was the youngest of the quartet, but he was the second-most impressive after Mendy, who was able to nail down a starting position.
The argument can be made that after Karim Benzema, Rodrygo was Real Madrid’s second-best forward in the 2019-2020 season. Rodrygo played fewer than 1,500 minutes in all competitions for the first team, so he actually played less than Militao. But Rodrygo was a regular part of the rotation with 26 appearances, which is pretty staggering for an 18-year-old in his debut season at Real. To compare Jovic, 21 at the time, played fewer than 1,000 minutes with half (16 to 8) of Rodrygo’s starts.
As you’d expect, Rodrygo wasn’t part of the first team for the whole season. He began the year in Castilla before being called up, immediately sealing his place in the first team with a sensational debut goal that was the second-fastest in Real Madrid history. But he also went to Castilla in the second half of the season when Zinedine Zidane struggled to find him minutes, ensuring that Rodrygo’s progression would still continue.
Rodrygo is clearly too good for Castilla. The 19-year-old provided 10 goal contributions in all competitions for Los Blancos last season. Only Karim Benzema scored more non-penalty goals than Rodrygo. Likewise, per FBRef.com, only Benzema had more goals and assists per 90 minutes than Rodrygo in all competitions.
Zidane is a patient manager. As we saw when he moved Rodrygo back to Castilla for a little bit, he takes developing young players seriously. He knows the pressure a hyped-up, 50 million euro prospect like Rodrygo faces in his debut season at Real Madrid. And while Rodrygo has handled the pressure well, Zidane knows his responsibility is to nurture his players as a manager. He’s taken the calm, patient approach with the equally exciting Vinicius Junior and with Jovic.
Rodrygo’s development is in good hands. Zidane has the unenviable task of figuring out how to get so many talented players into the lineup each week, constantly rotating to keep players fresh and happy. Competition is particularly fierce at the wide forward positions. Eden Hazard, Vinicius, Rodrygo, and Marco Asensio all command playing time. Lucas Vazquez is still in the squad. Martin Odegaard and Isco can play as forwards, too.
But Zidane should have his focus on Rodrygo. Based on last season’s numbers, Rodrygo has the technical skill, tactical understanding, and efficiency in the final third to become a major asset to Real Madrid in just his second season with the club. With no incoming signings, Rodrygo’s importance to Real, especially his potential goal-scoring upside, has increased greatly.
A number of veteran players experienced a huge turn-around when Zidane took over. Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, and Thibaut Courtois were all profoundly better with Zidane coaching the team last season.
So if that’s what he can do with players who are already established as among the elite at their positions, imagine what he can do to help a young player who was already one of the team’s best attackers as a debutant and has the talent to become one of the best in the world in his own right.