Not one but two teenage talents are making headlines in Brazil as a conveyor belt of thrilling footballers continues with Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior
Rodrygo Goes is the name hogging the media spotlight in Paulista football this season. Santos has always been a factory of talent throughout history. From the great Pelé in the fifties and sixties, to Neymar in our current era, many of the big names of the Brazilian game have emerged from their youth academy. Speaking of the latter, it seems that the club has finally found someone who could be worthy of being Neymar’s heir.
Neymar helped Santos win the Copa Libertadores in 2011, as well as many other important trophies, before leaving the club to FC Barcelona in 2013, having scored a total of 136 goals in 224 matches. Ever since, they have not had someone with the same phenomenal skills and ability to humiliate defenders in the same way.
That was of course, until a certain Rodrygo emerged. The player who turned 17 just two-months-ago, has already been vital for Santos, scoring the last-gasp winner against Ponte Preta and the late equalizer against Ituano in the São Paulo state championship. But the youngster’s performance against Nacional, was above of all his previous displays for many reasons.
The opponent is considered a giant in Uruguay, while Santos were down to ten men as Gabriel Barbosa had been sent off. And to receive the ball in the middle of the pitch, before making a run, dribbling past two defenders and beating the goalkeeper, is something that no ordinary 17-year-old could do. Following that phenomenal moment of brilliance, Rodrygo managed to draw the attention of the whole country.
The Brazilian press is probably exaggerating by already comparing Rodrygo’s dribbling style to Lionel Messi, or saying that “he was more Neymar than Neymar” with that solo run, but the golaço will certainly invite the media to draw even more stunning comparisons.
Either way, Rodrygo wrote history by becoming the youngest Brazilian goalscorer in Copa Libertadores history. In a tweet right after the game, the teenager apologized to his teacher for missing class. Is entering the history books of the greatest club competition in South America a valid excuse? I would have certainly thought so, if I was the professor.
A night prior to Santos’ convincing 3-1 home victory against Nacional, Flamengo were trailing in Ecuador away to Emelec. It was in the second half where Vinicius Júnior was subbed on, and the other gifted Brazilian 17-year-old would go on and score two brilliant goals: one from a solo effort and the other from a well-placed curved shot with his weak foot, the Ricardo Kaká way. The Real Madrid soon-to-be starlet, would eventually win the Carioca giants the tie and enter the history books as their youngest ever goalscorer in the competition.
Brazil is very lucky to be able to rely on an extremely promising generation for the next couple of years. The comparisons between Rodrygo Goes and Vinícius Júnior have already started, and while club fans find it annoying for now, the Seleção fans will thank the gods of football for the duo when they team up in the next World Cup editions, wearing the yellow shirt.