Back in March and April 2017, we covered several stories from Brazil which reported Liverpool’s interest in a Santos youngster called Rodrygo.
The stories said the Brazilian club had been struggling to renew the teenager’s contract, and even though he hadn’t debuted for the first team yet, it was widely known the boy would be the next big deal at Vila Belmiro.
Liverpool reportedly tried to bid €5m for the 16-year-old at the time, but that obviously wasn’t enough. Rodrygo ended up signing a contract with Santos until 2022, backing off the European interest for a while.
Now Catalan newspaper Sport brings Rodrygo on its front page, saying Barcelona are in talks to sign him. The club would be trying to get ahead of the competition from Liverpool and Manchester United, and already started talks with his staff. The price this time? His €50m release clause.
So what happened in the past months that made the European clubs think he’s worth ten times more? Well, quite a lot.
Rodrygo made his debut for the first team in November last year, and played only two league matches in 2017. The time was used for the 16-year-old to adapt to his new reality with the big boys.
Having turned 17 in January, he’s started the 2018 season with full force. Three goals in 12 appearances in the State Championship, and more importantly, a quite impressive Libertadores campaign.
The continental tournament is well known in South America for being pretty tough, but that didn’t intimidate the teenager. Santos lost only in the group stage debut, for which Rodrygo stayed on the bench. In the following three matches he started, came three wins for the Brazilian side.
His first start in Libertadores was against Uruguayan side Nacional at home, and that’s when he scored this beauty.
He’s been missing school to play the Copa Libertadores at night, and after scoring against Nacional, he even apologised to the teachers during the press conference for his absence.
Now on Tuesday, in the home match against Estudiantes, even though the starlet didn’t score, Rodrygo was chosen as the man of the match.
One of the most beautiful plays was when controlling a cross inside the box, making things look ridiculously easy. The commentator, quite excited, calls him a ‘lightning’.
So even though the boy isn’t getting overhyped for circus skills and youtube compilations, his impact at Santos’ team in an international competition at the age of 17 is making him big.
He’s now more important to the team than, for example, Gabigol, who’s currently on loan from Inter Milan and was seen as the most important signing of the season.
Not even Neymar was playing at this level at this age, so even though Santos fans are trying to keep things calm, it’s pretty clear that Rodrygo can become a club star. That is, in the case he stays in Brazil for long enough.
Santos are unlikely to let him go for less than the release clause. Even though the club need money, their traditions say homegrown players should shine for the team first, if possible, winning titles with that shirt.
As we’d say in Brazil, there will always be a skinny boy showing up at Santos to lead the club to titles. That’s why after Pelé, Robinho and Neymar, Rodrygo is called the ‘fourth lightning’ at Vila Belmiro.
On Sunday, Liverpool were again linked with the player in the Catalan media. This looks like a situation to watch for Jurgen Klopp and the transfer team at Anfield.