Inter are on the verge of exiting the Champions League after losing 2-0 to Real Madrid in Wednesday's clash at San Siro.

Madrid won the reverse fixture 3-2 earlier this month to revive their Group B campaign and they made a strong start to what was the first meeting between these sides at Inter's iconic ground since 1998.

Eden Hazard converted an early penalty - his first goal in the competition in three years - and Inter's task was made all the more difficult when Arturo Vidal was sent off for dissent with 33 minutes played.

Madrid added a second goal through substitute Rodrygo's volley to move a point behind Borussia Monchengladbach in second, with Inter five points worse off in fourth heading into the final two rounds of fixtures.

Rodrygo struck 10 minutes from time to earn Real Madrid a 3-2 win and deny Inter after the visitors had battled back from two goals down in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane labelled the Group B match a "final" and his side made a bright start thanks to Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos – the latter scoring his 100th goal for the club.

Inter, who entered the contest one point better off than their opponents, battled back through well-taken strikes from Lautaro Martinez and Ivan Perisic either side of half-time.

But Madrid regained their lead late on when substitutes Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo combined on the counter, making it five games without a win for Inter and under-pressure boss Antonio Conte.

Marco Asensio was denied by a smart Samir Handanovic save and Nicolo Barella scraped the top of the crossbar with a header in a lively and end-to-end start to the showdown.

That set the tone for what was to follow as Benzema pounced on Hakimi's underhit backpass, rounded Inter goalkeeper Handanovic and tucked the ball into an empty net for the 25th-minute opener.

Ramos added a second for Madrid eight minutes later by getting away from his marker to meet Toni Kroos' corner and head in from the edge of the six-yard box.

Inter gave themselves an instant lifeline as Barella superbly flicked the ball into the path of Martinez to pick out the bottom-left corner 10 minutes before the interval.

Conte's Inter, once again without injured striker Romelu Lukaku, initially struggled to get at their opponents in a quieter second half in the Spanish capital.

However, against the run of play, Martinez nodded the ball into the path of Perisic and the makeshift striker held off Lucas Vazquez before rifling across Thibaut Courtois.

Both teams went in search of a winner and it was Madrid who found it – Vinicius leading a break down the left and feeding the ball to fellow Brazilian Rodrygo, who took a touch to set himself and then found the top-right corner to win the match during the closing stages.

Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Ansu Fati headline the final 20-name shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy award.

The prize, presented by Italian newspaper Tuttosport and won by Joao Felix last year, is given to the best player aged 21 or under from a top-tier league in Europe.

Haaland is a leading contender for the accolade after scoring 44 goals across all competitions in 2019-20 – 16 of those coming in 18 appearances after a mid-season move from Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund.

Among all Bundesliga players last season to have scored at least 10 goals, only Robert Lewandowski (81.2) had a better minutes-per-goal record than Haaland (81.7).

His Dortmund team-mate Sancho finished the 2019-20 league campaign with 17 goals and 16 assists, making him the first player since Opta began detailed data collection (2004-05) to register at least 15 in both categories in the same Bundesliga campaign.

The England international's prolific campaign saw him become the youngest player (20 years, two months and six days old) in the history of Germany's top flight to reach 30 career goals.

Despite their impressive numbers, Haaland and Sancho face stiff competition from Fati, who became the third-youngest player (16 years, 304 days old) to find the net in LaLiga history and the youngest of all time in the Champions League (17 years, 40 days).

He finished the season with eight goals in all competitions and has continued his rise this term, netting three times in as many LaLiga games and becoming the youngest player to score for Spain.

Alphonso Davies will also be in contention after establishing himself as one of the top left-backs in the game during Bayern Munich's treble-winning season.

The full 20-man shortlist:

Mitchel Bakker (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), Jonathan David (Lille), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Fabio Silva (Wolves), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Mason Greenwood (Manchester United), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Dominik Szoboszlai (Salzburg), Sandro Tonali (Milan), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Brazil sensation Rodrygo said he does not want to become the "new Neymar" as he addressed comparisons to the Selecao superstar.

Rodrygo is one of the most exciting young players in football following his exploits for LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The 19-year-old winger's €45million switch from Santos to Madrid in 2019 has carried weight amid comparisons to Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar and Robinho, who both emerged from the Brazilian club.

But Rodrygo is uncomfortable with the comparisons, telling reporters on the eve of Brazil's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Peru on Tuesday: "From the beginning of my career when I started at Santos, they already compared me as the 'new Neymar' and with Robinho, I always had that weight over me.

"I always said that I wanted to be Rodrygo and make my story, Robinho and Neymar are great idols of Santos and of all the places where they played. I'm just starting out and I think there is only one Neymar.

"I always had that weight over me, but I just want to be Rodrygo."

Rodrygo – who has three international appearances to his name – came off the bench in Brazil's 5-0 rout of Bolivia in Sao Paulo on Friday.

He has made two LaLiga appearances for Madrid in 2020-21, having played 19 matches last term and 26 across all competitions.

"I think it is very important to have a good level, we all know that we have excellent players in my position," Rodrygo said. "It is very important that when it is my turn to play I do well and do what Tite asks of me in training and before each game.

"It is important that I have continuity in my work to continue being summoned in the national team."

Wolves have pulled off what will likely be one of the coups of the transfer window in securing a club-record deal for the highly rated Fabio Silva.

The 18-year-old forward joins in a reported €40million (£35.6m) transfer, signing a five-year contract to further expand Wolves' significant Portuguese contingent.

Executive chairman Jeff Shi confirmed his signing had come at the request of head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and it sees Wolves secure a talent strongly linked with Real Madrid and Liverpool in the past.

The deal makes Silva the seventh costliest teenager in history, and he joins illustrious company, as outlined below…

Kylian Mbappe: Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain - €180m

Likely to remain the world's most expensive teenage signing for some time, Kylian Mbappe is already well on the way to justifying the €180m outlay PSG made to prise him away from Monaco three years ago. Mbappe had fired Monaco to a shock Ligue 1 title triumph before departing and his goals have continued to flow in the French capital. Still just 21, Mbappe has arguably eclipsed team-mate Neymar already, while he has won a World Cup with France. Pele has acknowledged comparisons with the forward, who looks a certain Ballon d'Or winner in the near future. It would take a world-record fee to buy Mbappe, but he has hinted he could be open to leaving PSG.

Joao Felix: Benfica to Atletico Madrid - €126m

Potentially rivalling Mbappe for top individual honours in the years to come could be Joao Felix, who was tasked with replacing Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid following his move to Barcelona. Joao Felix hit 20 goals in all competitions for Benfica in 2018-19, three of those strikes coming in the Europa League, to announce himself among the world's top talents. He endured a difficult first season in Spain, as he appeared to struggle with a new position, setup and philosophy under Diego Simeone's tutelage, but some promising flashes towards the end of the campaign suggested the player compared to Kaka could establish himself in 2020-21.

Matthijs de Ligt: Ajax to Juventus - €85.5m

Barcelona were linked with De Ligt, having already sealed a deal for club and country team-mate Frenkie de Jong, but the Ajax captain instead opted for Serie A. Much like Joao Felix at Atletico, De Ligt did not have the most convincing of debut seasons, despite Juve going on to win another Serie A title. Nevertheless, after a year bedding in, 2020-21 might see the Dutchman recapture his best form as he will likely become an even more central figure under Andrea Pirlo.

Anthony Martial: Monaco to Manchester United - €60m

Eyebrows were raised when United parted with €60m for Martial in 2015, with one British newspaper describing the deal as a "waste of money" in a back-page splash. While it might have taken him a while - after a blistering start - to properly establish himself, struggling particularly under Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman is beginning to make good on his potential at 24. With 17 goals in 32 Premier League games in 2019-20, Martial appeared to cement himself as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first-choice centre-forward and formed a dynamic front three with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. He also earned a recall to the France squad, with 2020-21 looking like a season of endless possibilities for Martial.


Rodrygo Goes: Santos to Real Madrid - €45m

Real Madrid have been signing young talent in recent seasons in a departure from their Galactico-focused days, although the arrival of Eden Hazard did show they are still willing to splash out on ready-made superstars. Rodrygo Goes linked up with Zinedine Zidane's squad for 2019-20 having remained on loan with Santos after completing his initial transfer to the Spanish giants. The tricky forward showed plenty of promise in his first season and seemed to usurp Vinicius Junior in the pecking order at times. Madrid hope he can be their Neymar.


Vinicius Junior: Flamengo to Real Madrid - €45m

Rodrygo followed in the footsteps of fellow Brazilian Vinicius, who was a rare shining light for Madrid in 2018-19, scoring two LaLiga goals. In his second season, Vinicius was in and out of the team, but did enjoy a few stints of regular football. Flashy, flamboyant and difficult to tackle, Vinicius is a classic Brazilian wide player, though concerns about his end product remain despite having been at the club for a while now. Nevertheless, Vinicius could be Madrid's future along with Rodrygo.

Fabio Silva: Porto to Wolves - €40m

Silva became Porto's youngest-ever player in 2019 when he made his debut for the first-team less than a month after his 17th birthday – the previous record-holder was his new Wolves team-mate, Ruben Neves. The technically gifted forward, who has been suggested as the potential long-term heir to Cristiano Ronaldo, helped Porto to UEFA Youth League success in 2018-19 and has regularly caught the eye in Portugal's youth setup. Although he only scored three times in 20 appearances with Porto in 2019-20, Silva appears destined for a future at the top, with his technique and on-the-ball talents seemingly a good fit for Wolves' dynamic attacking options.

Luke Shaw: Southampton to Manchester United - €37.5m

Like Martial, Luke Shaw is another player who seems to have laboured under a large price tag at times. Shaw also had a fractious relationship with Mourinho but made the United left-back spot his own with 29 Premier League starts in 2018-19. The 24-year-old remained a regular last term, despite the emergence of Brandon Williams, and managed to stay relatively injury-free, but one rarely gets the impression his position in the squad is absolutely certain, particularly given his attacking output lacks in comparison to the world's best full-backs.


Wayne Rooney: Everton to Manchester United - €37m

Wayne Rooney certainly repaid his fee – he was British football's most expensive teenager – becoming United's all-time leading goalscorer and winning five Premier League titles at the club, as well as the 2007-08 Champions League. Rooney will go down as a United great despite affairs such as agitating for a move and falling out with Alex Ferguson. Rooney dropped out of favour in the latter years of his time at Old Trafford and was also sidelined for England, with a return to boyhood club Everton failing to spark. But joining MLS strugglers DC United was a clever move and Rooney helped inspire their rise. Now 34, he is back in England with Derby County.


Renato Sanches: Benfica to Bayern Munich - €35m

Bayern thought they were signing a player who would become one of the era's dominant midfielders when they snapped up Renato Sanches from Benfica, but the transfer did not work out at all. Bayern bought Sanches before he won Euro 2016 with Portugal but, four years later, that remains the highlight of his career. Sanches flopped in a loan spell with Swansea City in the Premier League and quickly appeared surplus to requirements at Bayern. He eventually secured a permanent move away last year when Die Roten recouped €25m for him - applaudable given his form - when selling him to Lille. But in France he seems to have found his feet again, enjoying a solid debut season and attracting interest from around Europe.

Eden Hazard and Rodrygo will start for Real Madrid against Manchester City in the Champions League last-16 second leg.

Belgium star Hazard had been battling to be fit after suffering discomfort in the ankle he injured in February, but head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed this week the player was feeling better.

He joins Rodrygo, preferred to Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior, alongside Karim Benzema in attack, while Eder Militao starts as expected in place of the suspended Sergio Ramos.

City boss Pep Guardiola has dropped Eric Garcia to the bench after announcing on Thursday that the teenage defender – heavily linked with a return to boyhood club Barcelona – would not sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium.

Veteran campaigner Fernandinho will partner Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence, with Phil Foden handed a start as David Silva begins his final game as a City player in Manchester among the substitutes.

Gabriel Jesus, who played much of the first leg on the left flank before heading in City's equaliser, starts up front in Sergio Aguero's ongoing absence through a knee injury, while Guardiola again appears to have opted for a double pivot in midfield of Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri, who both started at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Portugal international Joao Cancelo is preferred to Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, with Benjamin Mendy suspended.

City lead 2-1 from that first leg.

Zinedine Zidane insists Real Madrid are not prematurely celebrating despite taking significant steps towards LaLiga glory in recent weeks.

Barcelona have drawn three of their past four matches, with Madrid winning all of their games across the same period to open up a four-point advantage at the summit.

The Clasico rivals each have 15 points to play for, meaning Barca require a huge swing in the remaining matches, with their derby at home to Espanyol and Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao next on the agenda.

Los Blancos last won the title in 2016-17, during Zidane's previous spell in charge, and the head coach is taking nothing for granted.

"The players know that it is a complicated, difficult, long competition, and that those who did it before show that they want to go for everything," he said.

"There is no euphoria here because we have not won anything.

"There is work and commitment to do it well and try to win matches."

Sergio Ramos was Madrid's match-winner against Getafe last time out and he is set to be joined at centre-back by Eder Militao at San Mames.

Raphael Varane was struck in the face by the ball during Thursday's match and was substituted, with the France international suffering from neck pain and unable to recover in time for a place in this weekend's squad.

"He has just arrived, he is working to reach the level of Rafa and Sergio," Zidane said of the 22-year-old former Porto defender Militao.

"Tomorrow he will have to play and I am happy for Mili because he is a player for the present and the future."

Seven of Militao's 12 LaLiga appearances so far this season have been starts, while his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo has only made Zidane's first XI once since the restart and last scored in October.

Nevertheless, the teenage forward produced a lively cameo last time out, asking questions of Getafe before Ramos' 79th-minute penalty.

"He is a player who is changing little by little, working hard," Zidane added.

"He is a charming boy, he is well, and in the end we will take advantage of his qualities."

Zinedine Zidane thinks Raheem Sterling is a quality player but is not interested in discussing a possible Real Madrid bid for the Manchester City star.

In an interview with Madrid publication AS, Sterling described Los Blancos as "a fantastic club" and suggested he could be interested in playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, although he made it clear he is happy at City.

With Pep Guardiola's side facing a ban from European competition pending the outcome of a planned appeal, the future of Sterling is likely to intensify over the coming weeks, particularly with Madrid and City meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Madrid head coach Zidane is undoubtedly an admirer of Sterling, but he seems disinclined to encourage speculation.

"I can't talk about a player who isn't mine," he told reporters on Friday. "He's a very good player, no doubt about that."

Madrid face Levante in LaLiga on Saturday before their attentions turn to City next week.

One player hoping to impress is Rodrygo, who has not made a league appearance since January 26.

"He hasn't been in the last three squads, but we know he's an important player for us and when everyone is there, you have to select a squad," Zidane said of the Brazilian.

"That's all it is, because we're happy with him. He's shown he's very good."

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is said to be at an impasse in talks over a new contract, with Madrid reportedly unwilling to match their captain's request for a two-year extension.

Zidane, though, expects a new deal to be agreed without too much complication and is even backing the defender in his desire to represent Spain at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Sergio's renewal looks easy to me. I want Sergio with me. He's our captain, our leader and an example as a player," he said.

"He's very important for all Madridistas, for the players...

"He should go, of course [to the Olympics]. I will support him. It's very beautiful to play for your country."

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale are not in the Real Madrid squad for Saturday's LaLiga derby with Atletico Madrid.

Brazilian forward Rodrygo Goes also misses out on the 19-man squad, along with Brahim Diaz and Nacho Fernandez.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane had suggested Bale and Hazard could be involved in the match at the Santiago Bernabeu after some encouraging signs in training this week.

Hazard has been out since November with an ankle injury, while Bale was hurt in the 3-1 Copa del Rey triumph over Unionistas de Salamanca last week and missed wins over Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza.

Bale had been linked with a deadline-day return to Tottenham but Zidane insisted on Friday he was "not contemplating" such a move.

Casemiro, Eder Militao and Isco have all returned to the Madrid squad for the clash with Diego Simeone's side.

Madrid are three points clear at the top of LaLiga after 21 matches, 10 points above Atleti, who sit in fifth place.

Real Madrid lifted the lid on the worst-kept secret in world football on Monday when they confirmed the signing of Flamengo talent Reinier Jesus for a reported €30million.

In completing the long-reported deal, Los Blancos bolstered an already impressive collection of young players on their books, with the club's future planning seemingly second to none in world football.

In Eder Militao, Federico Valverde, Luka Jovic, Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior, Takefusa Kubo, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Martin Odegaard and now Reinier, Madrid boast a remarkable amount of under-23 talent.

Reinier completed his switch the day after his 18th birthday and, while his price tag appears hefty, it actually led to friction within Flamengo – coach Jorge Jesus accusing the club of not being able to value their players, a comment vice-president Marcos Braz subsequently shut down.

Although a regular in transfer gossip columns of late, Reinier remains something of an unknown quantity and a complete rookie given he has played just 15 matches of senior football.

We asked Andy Walker, a Brazilian football analyst and expert for Football Radar, for the lowdown on the latest Brazilian 'wonderkid' to secure a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

What's Reinier's favoured role?

"Reinier is at his best in a No.10 role, but he does like to play slightly more advanced than a traditional '10', staying close to the striker as much as possible," Andy surmised.

It is an area in which Madrid are by no means short, but Reinier also boasts the flexibility to fill in right across the frontline. "He has actually been used as a striker at times by Flamengo as a result," Andy added.

 

What are his greatest attributes?

A Brazilian attacker coveted by Real Madrid – you might be able to guess at a few of his strongest traits, though Andy has also been impressed by Reinier's poise when it matters.

"A quick, direct dribbler who can glide past his man with ease, as well as possessing deceptively good close control and technique," Andy said. "He's also got a real eye for goal, with six goals in 729 minutes of senior football, with his composure really impressive given his very young age."

 

In which areas does he need to improve?

While he is certainly costly, it should not be forgotten Reinier has only just turned 18 and is by no means the finished article. Our expert has reservations over the Flamengo product's physicality and athleticism at the moment.

He said: "He needs to progress physically as we have seen him struggle to keep up the pace in the latter stages when playing a full 90 minutes, but that should all come as he learns the game and adapts to a more rigorous training regime in Europe. As with any young Brazilian, he will need a lot of growth on the tactical side of the game, but his six months under Jorge Jesus will prove a real benefit, rather than playing under some of the archaic Brazilian coaches."

 

Which player could he be comparable to?

Every talented young player from Brazil or Argentina gets labelled as the heir apparent to a previous superstar, and it seems Reinier is no different having drawn comparisons to a former Madrid player.

"The easy comparison to make is with Kaka – or specifically the Milan-era Kaka," Andy suggested, and he is not the only one to make that link. Guilherme Dalla Dea, Reinier's former Brazil Under-17 coach, said similar last year.

"I see him as a '10' – a Rai, a Kaka," he told FIFA. "I see these characteristics in Reiner. He likes getting in the box, scoring goals. He also scores goals from outside the box. I've so much belief in him. He's a kid, a youngster, but he's very level-headed and because of this he's our captain. I firmly believe we'll see him playing at a very high level overseas."

 

How does his potential stack up compared to Rodrygo and Vinicius?

There is no doubt Madrid are backing their own track record of turning raw young talents into the world's best, such has been their investment in under-23 players over the past few years. And the consensus is, Reinier's potential is vast.

"It's difficult to say given Rodrygo and Vinicius were given more time to show their talents in Brazil before moving, but Reinier's talent has been obvious since his very first game and I think the general feeling is that, if all goes well, then he could end up being the best of the lot," Andy observed.

 

Have there been any concerns relating to his mentality?

Talent can only take you so far. As a teenager moving to a new continent, Reinier will surely face mental challenges and those will likely determine whether or not he achieves success – but in terms of professionalism, he is seemingly well set.

"Reinier's team-mates and coaches have all been very positive about his attitude and willingness to learn, so he looks well-placed to make the most of his talents," Andy commented.

Similarly, his coach Jorge Jesus has no worries about that side of the 18-year-old, telling Marca: "I believe a lot in Reinier. I had several talks with him and we talked a lot from the point of view of how he can get better, about his defects, what needs to be corrected. Reinier is a very intelligent kid, he likes to learn and I can say he is a gifted one. I assure you, he is going to mature there. He will arrive in Madrid safe and quiet to do a job, but it is necessary to give him some time."

When Barcelona hosted Real Madrid on November 29, 2009, the final Clasico of the first decade of the 21st century, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had won just a single Ballon d'Or between them.

The following month saw Messi land his first, yet even when considering the standards both were setting even then, few would have predicted the remarkable nature of their dominance over the following decade.

Ten years on, only one person – Luka Modric – has been able to interrupt their duopoly of the coveted individual award, with Messi edging out Virgil van Dijk earlier this month to win it for a record sixth time.

Ahead of the final Clasico of this decade on Wednesday, Barcelona's Messi is now the undisputed king of the fixture, with no one else's status even remotely comparable since Ronaldo's departure from Madrid to Juventus last year.

There is a staleness to the two squads in terms of many so-called star names, Messi and Karim Benzema aside. Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Toni Kroos, Modric, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba – all have been wonderful players and, in most cases, are still among the main attractions, but arguably every single one is past his prime.

But as we prepare to head into a new year and new decade, both sides have impressive youngsters waiting to be leading lights of the next generation, and some could even enjoy a decisive impact on Wednesday.

Barcelona

Ansu Fati - Winger, 17

The next jewel out of La Masia? Well, his lightning start to life in the Barca first team suggests so. Despite being just 16 years old at the time and without even representing their 'B' team, Fati was promoted to the senior side at the start of the season, becoming the club's second-youngest player as he featured against Real Betis. He then made himself the most junior goalscorer in their history. Nimble-footed, a good finisher and blessed with excellent vision, the teenager's potential appears limitless such is the ease with which he has adjusted to top-flight football.

Jean-Clair Todibo - Centre-back, 19

France Under-20 international Todibo has had a curious start to his Barca career, in that he has not made much of an impact. He joined from Toulouse – for whom he played 10 Ligue 1 games in 2018-19 – at the start of 2019, but then only featured twice in LaLiga before the campaign ended. Similarly, he has been sparingly used this term, but away to Inter in the Champions League he highlighted his potential. Making his Champions League debut, the defender was the best player on the pitch, coping comfortably defensively and showcasing considerable ability on the ball. The archetypal Barcelona centre-back, they already seem to have Pique's heir. That is if Barca resist the urge to cash in early, as reports suggest they are contemplating.

Frenkie de Jong - Central midfielder, 22

Probably the player on this list who least requires an introduction. De Jong rose to prominence last term with Ajax, playing a starring role as they went as far as the Champions League semi-final. While he has not quite hit those heights at Barca yet, there's no doubt about his ability. Once some of the older midfielders move on, De Jong will surely have the team built around him.

Pedri - Attacking midfielder, 17

He may be a year or two from making his first Clasico appearance, but Pedri looks destined for an illustrious career. Barca secured the attacking midfielder's signature in September when he was still 16, paying Las Palmas – where he has been important since returning on loan – an initial €5million. Media reports claim the Segunda club could eventually receive €25million for Pedri, whose release clause will balloon up to €400million when he becomes a first-team player at Camp Nou. A dazzling dribbler and a fine playmaker, Pedri is already seen as one of Spain's next great hopes and will surely light up El Clasico in the 2020s.

 

Real Madrid

Rodrygo Goes - Winger, 18

Even though Rodrygo cost Madrid a reported €45million from Neymar's former club Santos, it never felt as though there was quite the same hype around him from Madrid fans as there was Vinicius Junior. But the 18-year-old already seems to have moved ahead of Flamengo product Vinicius in the pecking order, with Rodrygo becoming something of a regular over the past couple of months. He is the Champions League's second-youngest hat-trick scorer following his treble against Galatasaray and is settling in at Madrid in encouraging fashion.

Vinicius Junior - Winger, 19

A positive debut campaign in Madrid gave Vinicius a real platform to build on this term, particularly given a lack of quality wide options aside from Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale – who is rarely in favour. The Brazil international is yet to nail down a starting role, with his performances a little inconsistent, though he remains an explosive option and has been used fairly regularly by Zinedine Zidane lately. If he progresses as expected, there is no reason why he and Rodrygo can't be pillars at Madrid over the next 10 years.

Federico Valverde - Central midfielder, 21

Valverde is by no means the typical Madrid player. He's not particularly flamboyant, meaning he lacks the aura of glamour of Vinicius and Rodrygo, yet he is enjoying an excellent breakthrough season. The Uruguayan midfielder has already made 12 LaLiga appearances this term – just four shy of his total for 2018-19 – and has truly earned Zidane's trust. Mixing an effective blend of combativeness, off-the-ball intelligence and fine ball control, Valverde could be Madrid's midfield lynchpin for years to come.

Martin Odegaard - Attacking midfielder, 21

The clamour to sign a 16-year-old Odegaard in 2015 at the time felt like the transfer saga to end all others. Madrid got their man, despite reported interest from Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and just about every other major European club. For a few years it seemed his potential may have been misread, but a solid loan spell at Vitesse last term saw him flourish and he has truly blossomed at Real Sociedad this season as a standout player in LaLiga. He'll almost certainly be back in 2020-21, and on the evidence of his current form, few would bet against him instantly starring.

Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior says he is "working hard" to follow the path of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling by becoming a more regular goalscorer.

Vinicius slotted home from close range for his first goal since September in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Club Brugge in the Champions League.

The Brazil international has netted six times in 43 appearances for Madrid, who he joined from Flamengo in July 2018, a year after his reported €45million buyout clause was triggered.

Vinicius does not believe his game is suited to scoring goals freely, but he hopes to improve in that department over time.

Citing the example of Sterling, who has become increasingly clinical in front of goal over the past few seasons, the 19-year-old attacker said: "I don't play to score. I play to help the team.

"Sterling at City also had trouble scoring goals. I left Brazil very early and I'm working hard to do great things."

Vinicius' compatriot Rodrygo Goes was also on target for Madrid in Belgium, taking his tally to six goals for the campaign.

Rather than being envious of Rodrygo's impressive start to life at the Santiago Bernabeu, though, Vinicius is pleased for his team-mate.

"We're friends," he said, according to Marca. "I'm happy because he is doing things very well."

Real Madrid ended their Champions League Group A campaign with a routine 3-1 win over Club Brugge at the Jan Breydel Stadium.

Zinedine Zidane's side had already secured their last-16 berth before the clash in Belgium and can now turn their attention to the draw for the knockout stages, which takes place on Monday.

Hans Vanaken cancelled out Rodrygo Goes' opener within the space of two second-half minutes, but a first Champions League goal for Vinicius Junior and a sublime strike from Luka Modric sealed all three points for the LaLiga giants.

Galatasaray's defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital, meanwhile, means Brugge finish third in the group and will now compete in the knockout stages of the Europa League in 2020.

Both goalkeepers were forced into excellent saves inside the opening 15 minutes; Alphonse Areola used his legs to keep out Percy Tau's close-range effort, while Simon Mignolet pawed over Luka Jovic's drive that capped a flowing move.

Isco came agonisingly close to opening the scoring shortly after the half-hour mark, the Spain international dragging wide of Mignolet's right-hand post from 18 yards.

The game then burst into life shortly after the interval, with two goals in as many minutes.

After a marauding run down the right-hand side, Alvaro Odriozola picked out Rodrygo and the Brazilian steered in a superb left-footed volley off an upright to put the visitors ahead.

That was cancelled out just 101 seconds later, however, when Vanaken collected Dennis' pass and whipped the ball past Areola from 15 yards.

Madrid restored their lead after 64 minutes when Vinicius slotted home from close range after Rodrygo had failed to get a shot away inside a crowded penalty area.

Modric then added a touch of gloss to the final scoreline with a sumptuous finish in stoppage time, the Croatian curling his effort past Mignolet from a central position just outside the penalty area.

 

What does it mean? Madrid through but improvement required

It has been far from a stellar campaign so far in this season's Champions League from Madrid, with just three wins from their six group games.

Zidane will know his side needs to improve dramatically if they are to go deep into the latter stages of a competition they won three times between 2016 and 2018.

Rodrygo at home on the big stage

The 18-year-old announced his arrival in European football's premier club competition with a hat-trick against Galatasaray and again showed why he is so highly rated. He took his goal superbly and was in the thick of the action throughout.

Jovic fails to deliver again

The former Eintracht Frankfurt striker has struggled since his move to the Spanish capital, scoring just one goal across all competitions. He came close to adding to his tally in the first half, but offered little else before he was substituted for Karim Benzema in the second half.  

What's next?

Zidane takes his side to Valencia in LaLiga on Sunday before a huge Clasico clash with Barcelona at Camp Nou. Brugge also return to domestic action on Sunday, taking on Mechelen at home.

Tite rejected criticism of his decision to play Rodrygo Goes for just two minutes in Brazil's 3-0 win over South Korea on Tuesday.

The Brazil coach said on Monday he would be patient with the teenage forward, who has made an impressive start to life at Real Madrid.

Rodrygo has scored twice in four LaLiga appearances for Madrid and notched a hat-trick in their 6-0 Champions League demolition of Galatasaray this month.

The 18-year-old got 19 minutes on his debut in the 1-0 loss to Argentina on Friday and received even less playing time in Abu Dhabi.

"It's one thing to throw Rodrygo into a system that's already structured, like Real's. It's another thing to put him in a team that is being reassembled, even if he was doing the same job in the same position," said Tite.

"It was so hard to organise for the team for today and they responded well. They were close to scoring a fourth and a fifth.

"It was a chance for Fabinho, Renan Lodi and Militao. They earned the chance and asserted themselves. Could it have been Rodrygo? Yes, but I preserved the continuity and the good moment of the team in the game."

Brazil boss Tite lauded Rodrygo for setting a strong example to aspiring footballers ahead of the teenager's potential international debut.

The 18-year-old Real Madrid forward could win his first senior cap when Brazil face old rivals Argentina in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Rodrygo was called-up after winning his maiden competitive start for Madrid and pressed his case for minutes with a sparkling hat-trick in the club's recent 6-0 hammering of Galatasaray.

The scene-stealing treble made him the second youngest player, behind Los Blancos great Raul, to score three times in a Champions League match.

But the exciting Santos product has made a positive impression on Tite beyond his footballing ability.

"I talked to him and said he had to be very proud of his behaviour. As a person, as an example," Tite said.

"I asked him to give a hug to his parents for the education they gave. Say thanks to Jair Ventura, the coach who launched him. He is an example for a lot of young boys who would like to be in his position.

"He must think I am a little crazy, because I was talking and I do not know him, this is our first meeting.

"But I saw that when he scored the first goal [against Galatasaray] he went to hug [Karim] Benzema, who assisted. When he completed the hat-trick, I saw the television camera was focusing on him and he didn't look at the camera. He took the ball and kissed it and stood there.

"He becomes an example for a number of boys. Football is a transformation agent, both for good and for bad. He's like that, and I ended up telling him to hug his parents. I don't know them, but they deserve it."

Brazil's date with Argentina could also mark the return of Lionel Messi, who has not featured for the Albiceleste since the Copa America.

Messi was effectively shackled by Brazil as they prevailed 2-0 in the semi-finals of that tournament, but Tite remains wary of the Barcelona captain.

"He is a different player, he has impressive technical qualities,” the Selecao coach said.

"We have different strategies. We never neutralise such a player, we reduce the qualities. But football is an essentially collective sport.

"A strong collective will improve a Neymar, Coutinho, Firmino, Willian, Otamendi, Messi, Aguero.

"We know that the group improves the individual. Of course, we are dealing with Messi. He is a distinct player."

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