60 seconds certainly isn’t an extraordinarily long time by any means, but it was enough for Rodrygo to pull off some stunning heroics that will undoubtedly go down in Real Madrid folklore. In a mere minute, the young Brazilian had revived Los Blancos’ Champions League hopes — scoring twice against Manchester City and forcing extra time.
Karim Benzema’s penalty, the Frenchman’s 15th strike of the competition, sealed the victory in the additional 30 minutes, and Real Madrid booked their place in the final against Liverpool at the Stade de France in Paris on May 28th — hoping to lift the famous European Cup for the record-extending 14th time in their history.
It isn’t the first time this season the 21-year-old, or his Brazilian counterpart Vinícius Júnior for that matter, has been the difference for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. There has never been any doubt that they are both incredible talents, but they have provided little more than flash in the pan moments since washing up on Spanish shores from South America in 2018 and 2019 respectively — until this season, that is.
Viní Jr has arguably stolen more of the spotlight, forming an incredible relationship with veteran Benzema — which few could have predicted after the French forward’s tunnel antics just a couple of seasons ago.
But with 87 goal contributions at the time of writing between the young Brazilian and Benzema in the Champions League and La Liga alone, they are the best strike partnership in the world right now — nobody even comes close, in fact.
Vinícius Júnior’s rise to prominence has been sensational. With 14 goals in the Spanish top flight, he has almost doubled all of his strikes from his previous three La Liga seasons put together (16), while his 12 assists are certainly not to be sniffed at either.
He has been just as important in the Champions League, too. With three goals and seven assists in 12 games — including setting up crucial strikes against Paris Saint-Germain and in both legs against Chelsea, as well as a solo goal in the 4-3 defeat to City — becoming a real asset for Ancelotti and he will be a key player in the final against Liverpool.
That does undermine the presence of Rodrygo though. The 21-year-old certainly hasn’t had as big of a breakthrough as his counterpart, with his figures still needing some improvement. But if anything, he has played an equally important part in Madrid getting to the Champions League final as Vinícius Júnior has.
Often used by Ancelotti as the last role of the dice, Rodrygo has come off the bench in situations where the odds have been largely stacked against Real Madrid. However, he has produced moments of magic when Los Blancos desperately needed it the most.
The first instance was his substitute appearance against Chelsea in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu. The defending champions had trailed Madrid 3-1 after their first encounter at Stamford Bridge, but they had taken a three-goal lead in the Spanish capital and looked set to go through to the last four — only for Rodrygo to volley beautifully past Edouard Mendy. Viní set up Benzema for the winner in ET.
Should Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Paris later this month, which doesn’t appear very likely in the Champions League final odds it must be said, the vast majority of the praise will be heaped on Benzema — who would likely go on to win the Ballon d’Or later this year if that is the outcome.
Credit must also be given to Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior, though. The duo have been written off time and again by pundits and football fans alike, but arriving at a club as demanding as Madrid as teenagers cannot have been easy and they have taken their time to adapt.
They have certainly proven their worth this year and a Champions League winners’ medal to add to their recent La Liga success would be a just reward for their hard work and steely determination.