With reports coming out of Spain suggesting Liverpool are extremely interested in bringing in Real Madrid’s Rodrygo in January, there’s no doubting he’d be an interesting addition to their squad.
Having reportedly tried to sign him in the summer but failed, Jurgen Klopp’s men certainly appear keen to acquire him to supplement their already brilliant attacking options that include Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.
Set to cost around €65 million if they were to secure the Brazilian who joined Madrid for a whopping €45 million as a 17-year-old, he won’t come cheap. There is, however, no denying what a special talent he is, and one that could turn into a world class operator if he reaches his full potential.
While the 20-year-old’s impressed often this term for Carlo Ancelotti’s men on his way to registering two goals and three assists, he’s regularly been left out of the starting lineup due to Marco Asensio being preferred.
Typically deployed on the right wing but also capable of switching flanks or playing through the middle, this versatility would be an asset for the Reds.
Such a skillful technician, he’s a real wizard with the ball at his feet, where his dribbling ensures he’s a nightmare to handle in 1v1s. Boasting a wonderful first touch and ball control, the former Santos starlet weaves out of danger and turns opponents smartly, plus beats opponents with feints, stepovers and electric cuts infield. The way he uses his agility and speed to alter his pace and direction enhances his threat to keep opponents on their toes.
Good at adjusting his receiving postures to protect the ball or outfox markers while remaining calm under pressure are further traits that would endear him to any potential new manager.
In terms of his distribution, Rodrygo’s shown what a useful passer and chance creator he is, which his eight assists last campaign aptly illustrated. Adept at picking out teammates with incisive through balls, deft flicks and one touch passes, accurate cutbacks and measured crosses, his aptitude here is impressive.
Also good at recirculating possession while waiting for an opening, switching the angle of attacks or finding colleagues between the lines, this has added to his worth.
Indeed, the fact he ranks in the top 9% for assists (0.35 p90), top 7% for pass completion (83.4%) and top 11% for progressive carries (8.75 p90) among players in his position across Europe’s top five leagues depicts his prowess on the ball (as per FBref).
Reading the play intelligently and always scanning his surroundings with purpose, his movement is another integral weapon in his armoury. Whether coming infield to be an extra presence between the lines or to combine with his teammates, hugging the touchline to stretch defences or marauding in behind, he’s forever asking questions of his foes.
Offering a terrific option for quick switches of play so he can be isolated in 1v1s while stretching backlines, he relishes these situations, where he can get at opponents to conjure shooting possibilities for himself or his teammates. This high and wide starting position also allows him to embark on dangerous out-to-in runs, where he can exploit the blindside of markers and gain a dynamic advantage over them to latch onto balls in ideal central (or half space) locations.
Alert to gaps between markers and unoccupied spaces inside the box, his forward surges provide much impetus, allowing him to be well placed to be a goalscoring option or a threat in behind.
Given the freedom to come inside into the half spaces or central to explore openings between the lines, Rodrygo is adept at doing so to either form overloads, connect attacks or make space for his fullback down the flank by drawing his man infield with him.
It’s also been impressive to note how he executes rotations with his colleagues. Be it with his nearby midfielder or fullback, plus when switching flanks or venturing into the striking position, he’s shown he’s in tune with Ancelotti’s demands. Keeping defenders on their toes at all times, these interchanges are very effective at destabilising backlines to produce gaps to be used.
Rodrygo’s numbers offer a testament to his clever movement for he ranks in the top 16% for progressive passes received (8.10 p90) and in the top 13% for touches inside the box (6.16 p90).
His movement has also been vital in ensuring he takes up good positions to use his excellent finishing skills. Capable of scoring with lovely placed finishes where he opens up his body expertly, instinctive tap-ins, powered efforts when needed, crafty dinks or volleys, the two footed Brazilian is a big asset in the final third.
Defending with intensity and clarity, he tucks into his stopping work with gusto and nous. Being a winger predominantly in both Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane’s systems, his main role is to press the opposition fullback or if they play a back three harry the nearby outside central defender.
He’s done so effectively too by understanding when to press, hold his position, shift across when the ball is on the far side or drop back. In addition, how he responds to triggers like a pass towards the sideline or if his opponent receives with their back to goal have been highlights.
Some extra points of note come from his speed to track back or attack his markers, and how he curves his pressing to use his cover shadow to block passing lanes behind him.
In the top 7% for interceptions p90 (1.54), top 12% for blocks p90 (1.79) and top 28% for pressures p90 (18.71), he’s certainly been a solid contributor in this phase of the game too.
Clearly happy in Madrid and enjoying his football, the signs so far suggest he’s got no desire of leaving just yet. “I feel good and I am thankful for the confidence the gaffer has shown in me,” he said.
“Whenever I’m on the pitch, I do my best to help the team. Ancelotti asks me to help out defensively, he knows I am great with the ball but I need to track back as well. Going forward, I have to improve every day, get more goals and assists all the time.”
With Madrid reportedly eager to keep him and even wanting to offer him a contract extension (as per Fabrizio Romano), it appears the gifted Brazilian will be staying put for now. But you never know in the world of football, as things can change in an instant.
Still just 20 and already playing at the highest level, the world is Rodrygo’s oyster. He now just needs to decide which club he deems the best fit to fulfill his enormous potential.