Real Madrid's Rodrygo Goes claims he rejected the opportunity to join Los Blancos' eternal rivals Barcelona when leaving Santos in 2019.

Rodryo played a crucial role as Madrid won their 14th European title this season, scoring a remarkable late double in a stunning 6-5 aggregate semi-final triumph over Manchester City before coming off the bench in the 1-0 final win over Liverpool.

The 21-year-old also registered eight goal involvements (four goals, four assists) as Madrid won LaLiga, with only Karim Benzema (27), Vinicius Junior (17) and Marco Asensio (10) outscoring him among his team-mates.

But things could have been very different for the attacker, who has told the podcast Podpah of how he chose the Santiago Bernabeu over Camp Nou when leaving his home country.

Recalling Barca's bid for him three years ago, Rodrygo said his father was incredulous when he stalled on the Blaugrana's offer, telling him: "What do you expect? You are going to play with [Lionel] Messi!"

But things ultimately worked out well for the attacker, who has also broken into the Brazil squad and looks well placed to feature for his nation at the Qatar World Cup later this year.

"A normal day, I came home after a game," he recalled. "I had a Real Madrid shirt in my house and my father came into my room wearing that shirt and another Barcelona shirt.

"He told me, 'now choose'... and I chose the one for Real Madrid."

Rodrygo has revealed that international team-mate Neymar wants him to inherit Brazil's famous number 10 shirt when the Paris Saint-Germain star retires from international football.

The Selecao are seeking to win a first World Cup title in 20 years in Qatar, where an impressive forward line is set to include Neymar, along with Real Madrid duo Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.

Neymar had already hinted that the 2022 tournament could be his last and appears to have relayed that message to his compatriots, with Rodrygo apparently in line to inherit the iconic number 10 shirt.

"Neymar said to me 'I'm already leaving the national team and the 10 is yours'," he told Podpah.

"I didn't even know what to say to him. I was embarrassed, I giggled and didn't even know what to say properly.

"I told him that he must play some more, that I didn't want [him] to [do so] now. And then he laughed."

Neymar is the latest in a long line of greats to grace the famous shirt for Brazil, following the likes of Zico, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Pele – while he sits just three goals shy of the latter's goalscoring record for his national team.

Expectations are high for Rodrygo, who has been capped five times, and the 21-year-old revealed that Zinedine Zidane has also touted him to become the best player in the world.

"Zidane said that one day I would be the best in the world," he added.

"Carlo Ancelotti also spoke about me. I try to train and evolve every day to get there. I was very happy. 

"I have this dream and I know that if I dedicate myself every day, I can get there."

Brazil open their World Cup campaign on November 24 against Serbia, with Switzerland and Cameroon also in Group G.

Pele expects to enjoy a strong Brazilian flavour to the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but asked on Friday night: "Am I the only one excited?"

The three-time World Cup winner, still considered by many the greatest player in history, pointed to the strong presence of players from the Selecao set to be on show at the Stade de France in Paris.

He noted how Madrid have Vinicius Junior and Casemiro in their ranks, while also suggesting Alisson and Fabinho could have crucial roles for Liverpool in the showpiece match.

Pele could have also mentioned Madrid's Marcelo, Eder Militao and semi-final comeback hero Rodrygo, who scored twice at the death in the second leg against Manchester City to rescue a seemingly lost cause.

Their Brazilian influence is strong, while Liverpool can also point to forward Roberto Firmino in their squad.

Pele wrote on Instagram: "I want to see a great final between @realmadrid and @liverpoolfc tomorrow. My friends @vinijr and @casemiro will have a tough challenge against @alissonbecker and @fabinho. Am I the only one excited about tomorrow's match? I'm sure not!"

The 81-year-old Pele has been battling ill health in recent times, undergoing treatment for colon cancer. He recently said he managed to find "peace" in the company of his wife Marcia and dog Cacau.

"Treatment is difficult, but feeling their love is the best medicine," Pele said.

Regardless of what occurs on the pitch at the Stade de France on Saturday, the 2021-22 season will have been a good one for Real Madrid.

Even if they are ultimately left with only the Spanish top-flight title to show for their efforts, there's an argument to be made that Carlo Ancelotti has defied expectations in his first campaign back at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Given the important losses of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos coupled with the fact only two new players were incoming, it would've been understandable if fans were less demanding than usual in their pre-season predictions.

After all, Ancelotti was seen as a safe pair of hands rather than someone who was going to come in, shake things up and preside over a philosophical overhaul – and looking back over the course of the season, he's been the perfect appointment.

Of course, the turmoil at Barcelona helped Madrid's cause, while Atletico Madrid's title defence fell flat early on. For a while Sevilla looked to be the only challengers to Los Blancos, but given they ran out of steam in the previous campaign, it's unlikely Ancelotti and his team will have been unduly worried by them – they ended up scraping a top-four spot.

As composed and dominant as Madrid were at LaLiga's summit, fans, pundits and journalists alike did go searching for potential weaknesses, or reasons for the chasing pack not to give up hope.

One area that appeared to be brought up more than most was rotation and the risk of burnout.

Full steam ahead

Between the start of the season and the end of December, six Madrid players had featured for more than 1,400 minutes in LaLiga. There are no surprises in this list: they would be considered the majority of the team's core players.

In the same period, only Espanyol (seven) had more players feature for at least 1,400 minutes in LaLiga, but they didn't also have Champions League football to contend with. Sevilla had three players meet the criteria; Barcelona had two and Atletico Madrid just one, goalkeeper Jan Oblak. 

Similarly, Madrid named the same starting XI three times in LaLiga this season. While that doesn't sound a lot, only Celta Vigo, Getafe, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna have done so more often.

It's clear to see Madrid have relied on a bigger group of core players than their rivals, and as such concerns about fatigue appeared astute earlier in the season.

But here we are, right at the end of the campaign: Madrid won LaLiga with four games to spare and are preparing to play in the Champions League final – and their route to this stage has relied on the ability to laugh in the face of fatigue, with Los Blancos coming back from the brink three times.

In that sense, you have to praise Ancelotti's squad management. Whether their lack of injuries has been by design or a fluke is difficult to speculate about, but there's clearly an element of Ancelotti swiftly establishing his preferred XI and then only wavering from it when absolutely necessary.

And when he did have to look elsewhere, there's no doubting who his favourites were.

Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga have come off the bench 23 times each across all competitions this season, the joint-most in the Madrid squad.

Granted, it's not as if they're two hopefuls promoted from the academy – both were expensive additions to the squad. But the frequency Ancelotti has turned to them as substitutes shows his belief in them to either carry out his instructions or make a difference.

Nowhere was that clearer than in the latter stages of the Champions League. Five of Camavinga's nine appearances in this season's competition have been in the knockouts, while Rodrygo has come off the bench four times in Europe since the turn of the year.

The latter has, understandably, taken a lot of plaudits in the second half of this season. He scored the vital aggregate equaliser against Chelsea, the brace that flipped the City tie on its head, and was inspirational off the bench away to Sevilla in the 3-2 win that essentially wrapped up the title.

Before the turn of the year, Rodrygo appeared to be struggling for relevance at Madrid. There will have been some wondering if he had a long-term future at the club, but he knuckled down after Christmas and has become a genuine weapon, seemingly embracing the fact you can still be decisive even off the bench.

On a per-90-minute basis, he heads into Saturday's game ranked fourth at Madrid for open-play chances created (1.4) and goals (0.34), joint-second for assists (0.34, behind Benzema on 0.35) and third for shots (2.4). He's beginning to show his worth.

Ancelotti's choice

Some might have generally expected more from Camavinga since joining from Rennes last year. He's not been able to establish himself as a regular in midfield at the expense of his more senior colleagues, perhaps unsurprising given he lacks the metronomic abilities of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric and the grit of Casemiro. However, his impact shouldn't be overlooked.

In the second-leg clashes against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City, every single one of Madrid's eight goals came after Camavinga's introduction. Those goals ensured Ancelotti's men produced great escapes in each tie.

In fact, over the 146 minutes both Camavinga and Rodrygo have been on the pitch in the Champions League in 2022, Madrid have scored eight times and conceded none. Over 502 minutes without at least one of them on the pitch, they've scored six and let in 11.

Of course, it's not as if Camavinga himself has been a central figure to all eight goals. His importance in these scenarios is more centred on the wide-ranging skillset he instantly brings to Madrid – he can pass, he's confident on the ball and is a hard-working competitor.

His contributions were notable in all three second legs, but it was against City when he really forced people to sit up and acknowledge him. In the three and a half minutes that followed his 75th-minute entrance, Camavinga showed his poise with a nice switch of play, swept up effectively in midfield as Phil Foden looked to pounce on a loose ball, and then tackled Rodri out wide.

He was happy to accept possession under pressure several times, with one occasion seeing him turn and lift a wonderful pass over the City defence in the 82nd minute as Karim Benzema tested Ederson in goal. A minute later he was darting back in pursuit of Bernardo Silva, ultimately producing an exceptional sliding tackle to win the ball back.

Camavinga then played a vital role in Madrid's first goal in the 90th minute. His inch-perfect lofted pass to the back post allowed Benzema to turn the ball into the danger zone where Rodrygo was on hand to flick home.

Rodrygo's second in quick succession forced extra time, and Camavinga helped bring about Madrid's crucial third. It was he who carried the ball over half the length of the pitch before finding the Brazilian to cross towards Benzema, who won the penalty from Ruben Dias.

But he showed his value off the ball as well. His four tackles from 45 minutes on the pitch was bettered by only Federico Valverde (five) among Madrid players, and he played the full 120.

His showing was another reminder of the supreme talent Madrid brought in last year and, for many it might've even been enough to earn a starting spot in the final.

Both Camavinga and Rodrygo certainly deserve at least the chance to impact proceedings in Paris, but don't expect Ancelotti to lose faith in his preferred XI at this stage.

Rodrygo has been congratulated by Brazilian legend Pele for his role in Real Madrid's incredible 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

Having replaced Toni Kroos as a 68th-minute substitute shortly before Riyad Mahrez's goal put Madrid 5-3 down in the tie, Rodrygo scored an astonishing last-gasp brace to force a thrilling second leg to extra-time, where Karim Benzema's penalty sent Los Blancos to the final. 

The 21-year-old became the first ever player to score two 90th-minute goals in a Champions League knockout game, and just the second substitute to score a semi-final brace in the competition, after Georginio Wijnaldum for Liverpool against Barcelona in 2018-19.

After changing the course of the tie with two goals in a dramatic 91 seconds, Rodrygo, who has five caps for Brazil, received high praise from an iconic compatriot of his on social media. 

"I always knew the day to congratulate you would come, my friend," Pele wrote in an Instagram post, alongside a photo of himself and Rodrygo wearing the Selecao's famous yellow shirts.

"There is no other way for those who work hard and love what they do. You are enlightened and you will still bring us many joys, congratulations. I can't wait to watch the final!"

Rodrygo scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over Paraguay in February, and has recorded eight goals and eight assists in a successful season with Madrid, for whom he has started 21 times in all competitions.

Madrid will face Liverpool in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month. Los Blancos have now made the final at least six times more than any other club, and defeated the Reds on their last such appearance in 2018. 

 

Barcelona defender Dani Alves said "there is no such thing as luck" as he saluted fierce rivals Real Madrid's remarkable late comeback win against Manchester City.

The Spanish champions edged an epic semi-final with City 6-5 on aggregate on Wednesday to set up a showdown with Liverpool – a repeat of the 2018 final – in Paris on May 28.

Rodrygo scored twice in the space of 91 seconds to salvage extra time for Madrid, who trailed 5-3 on aggregate with less than a minute of normal time remaining.

Karim Benzema's penalty in the additional period sealed Los Blancos' passage through to a record-extending 17th European Cup/Champions League final, which is six more than any other team.

It is the third knockout round in a row that Carlo Ancelotti's men, who secured a second league title in three years at the weekend, have recovered from behind.

Indeed, since the Champions League format changed in 2003-04, Madrid are the first team to lose a match in the last 16 (1-0 vs Paris Saint-Germain), quarter-final (3-2 v Chelsea) and semi-final (4-3 v Man City) and still reach the final.

And Brazil international full-back Alves does not believe it is any coincidence that Madrid pulled off another almighty fightback.

"Just like in life, there is no such thing as luck," Alves posted shortly after full-time. "Either you dominate the game or the game dominates you."

Hailing the late impact of two-goal Rodrygo, who is the first player in Champions League history to score twice in the 90th minute of a knockout match, Alves added: "Ah, what would soccer be without the Brazilians!"

With 11 goals spread across the two legs, Madrid's memorable victory against City is the second-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, behind only Liverpool's 7-6 win against Roma in 2017-18.

The Reds await Madrid at the Stade de France later this month after surviving a scare of their own before seeing off Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate on Tuesday.

Real Madrid hero Rodrygo Goes acknowledged his stunning cameo against Manchester City was his "best version" of himself in the Champions League as he led the 13-time European champions into the final.

Rodrygo had scored a vital goal against Chelsea in the quarter-finals and was required for another rescue act in the last four.

Madrid were still 4-3 behind on aggregate when the winger was introduced from the bench with 22 minutes remaining in the second leg, only for Riyad Mahrez's strike to then put Carlo Ancelotti's men two behind.

It appeared a lost cause, but Madrid do not deal in such defeatism – at least not this season and certainly not in this competition.

Rodrygo steered in from Karim Benzema's cutback with less than a minute of normal time to play, before remarkably heading in another 91 seconds later.

Those goals took the tie to extra time, where Benzema's penalty – won by the forward from a Rodrygo pass – sent Madrid through 6-5 on aggregate.

Benzema's 10th goal of the knockout stage tied Cristiano Ronaldo's 2016-17 record, but it would not have been possible without Rodrygo, who has remarkably scored with seven of his 10 shots on target in home Champions League games.

The Brazil international became the first Madrid substitute to score twice in a Champions League match since Gareth Bale's double in the 2017-18 final against Liverpool. That was the last time Los Blancos won the competition, but they are on the brink again against the same side.

"I'm really happy to be able to score two goals in the semi-final and get Madrid to the place where they always belong – the Champions League final – and to win it," Rodrygo said.

"I couldn't hear what my team-mates were saying to me because I couldn't believe what was happening.

"We were losing the game, my first goal in the 90th minute and we were dead, and then what happened was what happened.

"That's my best version of myself in the Champions League, and I hope I can continue to score a lot more times.

"In this shirt, we learn to always fight until the end and that's the way it was. We conceded a goal and we were almost dead, but with my first goal we started to believe because we've fought back in other games, and then came the second.

"From right now, we turn our attentions to Liverpool. We have another two LaLiga games we can use to prepare for the final."

It seems bizarre to suggest that in a contest between a club that has never won the European Cup or Champions League and another that has won 13 of them, it is the latter who will go into it as the underdog.

That is the case this week, though, with Manchester City and Real Madrid set to go head-to-head for a place in this season's Champions League final.

There is obviously reasoning behind this, with Pep Guardiola's side winning every other trophy available to them in recent years and breezing through their European campaign up to this point, a few scars from their quarter-final with Atletico Madrid aside.

Carlo Ancelotti's men have had a tougher road to get here, having to get past newly crowned French champions Paris Saint-Germain and reigning European champions Chelsea so far in the knockout stages.

They had to produce stirring comebacks in both ties, but City are an altogether different prospect, having finished above PSG in the group stage and beaten Chelsea home and away in the Premier League this season.

The English side have very few obvious weaknesses, but perhaps there is one area where Ancelotti can focus ahead of the first leg in Manchester.

Guardiola has recently been slightly overstating his lack of options, saying before the game with Watford at the weekend that City were suffering an injury crisis, before using 14 players that cost approximately £695million (€825m) (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk) to beat the Hornets 5-1.

However, one of his star performers this season has undoubtedly been Joao Cancelo, and the Portuguese full-back is suspended for the first clash with Madrid, while Kyle Walker remains a doubt with an ankle injury.

"They are doubts," the City manager said at a news conference on Monday when asked about Walker and John Stones. "They didn't train for the last week, 10 days... We will see how they feel and take a decision tomorrow."

This could lead to Guardiola having to get a bit creative at right-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko presumably getting the nod on the left.

Most eyes will be on the likes of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric to lead the visitors, with both producing their usual big-game performances to make the difference against PSG and Chelsea, but the key at the Etihad Stadium may be another slightly unsung hero.

It's not that Vinicius Junior is not highly rated. This season he has exploded into one of the most potent attackers in world football, but this could be the perfect time for him to cement his name as a star of Real Madrid's present and future.

The Brazilian has always been considered a talent but could never quite put together the consistent run of form expected of regular starters in the famous all-white kit, until this season.

Vinicius has registered 31 goal involvements (17 goals, 14 assists) in 45 games in all competitions (42 starts), and has created 94 chances from open play.

Compare this to last season and you can see his significant improvement, managing just 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) in 49 appearances (31 starts) in 2020-21, with just 43 chances created from open play.

His numbers are now up there with the best in Europe. In terms of chances created from open play in the top five European leagues this season, only Bruno Fernandes (101) and Thomas Muller (100) have created more than his 94.

No-one has attempted more than his 303 dribbles this season, while only Adama Traore, Kylian Mbappe (both 137) and Allan Saint-Maximin (136) have completed more dribbles than his 127.

Vinicius is well established as a standout performer in LaLiga this season as well, with only Benzema (25), Enes Unal and Raul de Tomas (both 15) having scored more than his 14, while only Benzema (36) has more goal involvements than his 22.

Speaking of Benzema, his partnership with the 34-year-old marksman is developing into one of the most potent in the game, with the duo having provided the most goals for each other in the Champions League this season (six), ahead of Ajax's Antony and Sebastian Haller, and Bayern Munich's Leroy Sane and Muller (both four).

Vinicius is always a threat, as shown against Chelsea at the Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final. Blues right-back Reece James had been doing a good job of containing him, until one switch off in extra time allowed the 21-year-old down the left, and he played a perfect cross in for Benzema to score what proved to be the winning goal in the tie.

There is another Brazilian winger for City to potentially watch out for, though, in Rodrygo, who also played a crucial role in dumping out Chelsea by scoring moments after coming off the bench in the second leg.

While he has certainly not emerged like Vinicius just yet, the former Santos player has been making himself a more integral part of Ancelotti's squad, with 41 appearances in all competitions so far this season (19 starts), which is already more than the 33 (13 starts) he managed in 2020-21.

He has 12 goal involvements (four goals, eight assists) this season, up from nine last year (two goals, seven assists), and the youngster recently told Real Madrid's official website that he is looking forward to the test of City.

"They'll be tough opponents," he said. "We know the way they play and how good they are. If they've made it to the Champions League semi-finals, it means they're good, and it's down to the way City like to play, with a lot of possession.

"We're expecting a tough match and we have to make sure we keep playing like we have been and try to make it through."

Rodrygo might be under more pressure to perform given recent rumours that he may be one of the players who will have to make way for Mbappe should the club finally land the PSG star at the end of the season.

That being said, arguably Mbappe's best position is where Vinicius is currently doing his damage, which leads you to wonder if he too might be playing for his long-term future.

Of course, the Frenchman can play through the middle but there's another significant obstacle in the way there too in the form of his compatriot Benzema.

If Vinicius and Rodrygo want to make a case for maintaining their roles at the club, they have the perfect opportunity to do so by taking Madrid to a first Champions League final since 2018, and we will see just how ready for the challenge they are at the Etihad.

Rodrygo led a Real Madrid fightback for the second time in a matter of days before declaring only the LaLiga leaders were capable of such turnarounds.

Madrid capped a stunning week by beating title rivals Sevilla 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to move 15 points clear at the top of the table – albeit with Barcelona still to play on Monday.

Los Blancos had been two goals down at the break before Rodrygo responded five minutes after the restart, then late goals from Nacho and Karim Benzema completed a sensational comeback.

That result followed a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea, which was enough to secure Champions League progress.

Madrid were heading out when they trailed 3-0 to the reigning European champions but similarly rallied, again through a Rodrygo goal that set up extra time and a decisive Benzema header in a 5-4 aggregate success.

Rodrygo has scored in consecutive matches for the first time in his Madrid career and could hardly have done it at a better time.

The half-time substitute, who also assisted Benzema's winner in Sevilla, said: "We head away with an incredible feeling, we always fight until the end.

"We knew this would be a very difficult game, but I'm thrilled to have got on in the second half, scored a goal and provide an assist to help my team.

"We should really value these three points because nobody else has won here, but we've managed it. It's three points that edge us closer to our goal, which is to win LaLiga.

"The coach told us to play a bit more because we struggled in the first half and they were better than us.

"These are things only Real Madrid are capable of doing. I'm incredibly proud to be part of this team and to be involved in these comebacks."

This was the first time Madrid had won in LaLiga after trailing by two goals since another 3-2 victory over Villarreal in February 2017, but they have repeatedly recovered results this season, earning a league-high 17 points from losing positions.

Sevilla came into the match unbeaten at home in the league this season, while this was the first time they had lost at home in the competition after leading at half-time since a 4-2 reverse at the hands of Barcelona in February 2019.

In fact, they had not lost anywhere having led at half-time since a 2-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao in October 2020.

Not since September 2019 against Eibar, another 3-2 defeat, had Sevilla let slip a two-goal advantage in the top flight.

Luka Modric described Real Madrid's 3-2 loss to Chelsea on Tuesday that sent them through the Champions League semi-finals as a "defeat that is very sweet."

An uncharacteristically poor performance that led to a 3-1 loss in the first leg at Stamford Bridge meant Chelsea had the proverbial mountain to climb at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Yet the Blues took a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, putting them up 4-3 on aggregate, before Eduardo Camavinga's substitution for Toni Kroos and Modric's sublime assist for Rodrygo changed the complexion of the game and tie. Karim Benzema's goal in extra time eventually separated the two sides.

The Croatia international said afterwards that, given his familiarity with Chelsea, he knew the return leg was not going to be routine.

"We knew after the first leg that we will have a tough game, because for me, they [Chelsea] are the most difficult team to play against," Modric told BT Sport. "I watch them a lot because of my friend Mateo [Kovacic] and they are a very tough, physical team, very compact and we knew it was going to be tough.

"In the end, we showed great character, great desire, great togetherness and we managed to turn it around, which is amazing. A defeat that is very sweet."

Tuesday's game resembled the first leg in last year's Champions League semi-final between the two, with Chelsea pressing intensely and piercing through in transition.

Thomas Tuchel's side dictated a very high tempo early, but Madrid were able to feel their way through the game, making sufficient adjustments and gaining momentum late.

"Unbelievable to describe this game. We were dead until the goal we scored," Modric said. "Chelsea scored three good goals, maybe the first goal was a bit lucky with the deflection, but I cannot say that we played a bad game."

According to Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, his side levelling on aggregate took momentum away from Chelsea, while also saving particular praise for the 36-year-old Ballon d'Or winner.

"The changes were important, in retrospect I must say that with the goal of 3-1, they took a good blow on a psychological level," he said.

"Modric was amazing with that assist, from there we build the second goal and then we managed."

Karim Benzema's extra-time goal put Real Madrid into the Champions League semi-finals despite a 3-2 defeat to holders Chelsea on Tuesday.

Goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner overturned Real Madrid’s 3-1 advantage from the first leg last week, but Rodrygo’s sublime volley forced the tie into extra time.

Benzema, who scored a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, had the final say, though, thundering home a header six minutes into extra time to seal a 5-4 aggregate victory. 

Carlo Ancelotti's side will now face either Atletico Madrid or Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola’s side holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

Chelsea's strong start was rewarded in the 15th minute when Mount curled past Thibaut Courtois from just inside the penalty area after latching onto Werner's nudged ball forward.

Madrid struggled to break Chelsea's stubborn backline down in the first half, with Ancelotti's men going in at the break without a shot on target to their name. 

Chelsea levelled the tie on aggregate six minutes into the second half, Rudiger planting a powerful header past Courtois from Mount's cross. 

Alonso thought he had edged Chelsea in front 11 minutes later when he thumped into the top corner from eight yards, yet his effort was ruled out for handball following a VAR check. 

Benzema crashed a header against the crossbar soon after, before Werner put Chelsea ahead on aggregate in the 75th minute with a strike that proved too hot for Courtois to handle. 

Madrid clawed their way back into the tie with 10 minutes remaining, though, as Rodrygo, who had only been on the pitch for two minutes, steered a superb volley past Edouard Mendy from Luka Modric's breathtaking cross. 

That set the stage for Benzema's decisive goal in additional time, the France international heading past Mendy from 10 yards out following fine work down the left by Vinicius Junior. 

 

Rodrygo has his sights set on World Cup glory with Brazil later this year following his call-up to the squad.

The Real Madrid winger has been selected by Tite for his nation's qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay this week.

The Selecao, who sit top of the CONMEBOL qualifying table, are already guaranteed a place in Qatar having collected 35 points from their opening 13 matches. 

Rodrygo has three senior caps to his name and knows the upcoming games present an opportunity for him to stake his claim to appear at the finals, and helping Brazil claim a sixth World Cup triumph – and first since 2002 – tops his priority list for this calendar year.

"It is very important for me to be [back in the] Brazil [squad]," he said in quotes reported on Marca via TNT Brazil.

"It was a goal to return to [the] Brazil [squad]. I think these games can define things, and I hope to play and settle in the national team.

"All Brazilians want to be in Qatar. I'm going to work to try to be there. If I play well, I have a chance [to go].

"[If I had to choose a title to win in 2022, I'd say] the World Cup."

Rodrygo has made 17 appearances for Madrid in LaLiga this season, with 11 of those coming as a substitute – the same as Luka Jovic – with none of his team-mates appearing from the bench more often. 

He has had more joy in the Champions League however, scoring in victories over Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 21-year-old has attempted 16 dribbles in Europe's premier competition this term, with Vinicius Junior (36) the only Los Blancos player to top that.

Rodrygo will hope to be involved again as Carlo Ancelotti's side face Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, and he is excited by the prospect of lining up against one of his compatriots.

"This game could have come a bit later [in the competition]," he added.

"They have some of the best players in the world. We know it's difficult, but it's a collective effort that will give us the chance to go through.

"Playing against Neymar will be special. I hope Real Madrid win."

Real Madrid have confirmed another five players and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Los Blancos revealed on Wednesday that Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after returning positive test results for the virus.

Having also seen positive cases appear in the basketball team, Madrid-based newspaper Marca reported on Thursday morning that the club were fearing a full-blown outbreak at their Valdebebas training base.

The first team now has at least seven members of the playing and coaching staff with coronavirus.

Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Andriy Lunin and Rodrygo are the latest players to have contracted COVID-19, while Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide was the one coach named on the list.

All will be absent for Madrid's final two matches of 2021 – the visit of Cadiz on Sunday and trip to Athletic Bilbao three days later.

However, there also remains the possibility that Madrid's matches are postponed either on medical grounds or due to a lack of players if there are further positive cases confirmed.

Eden Hazard did not make it onto the pitch in Real Madrid's win over Inter and Carlo Ancelotti explained why he sent match-winner Rodrygo on ahead of the Belgium winger. 

Madrid had to withstand a barrage of pressure in the first half, with Thibaut Courtois doing well to deny Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez in the Champions League Group D encounter. 

Rodrygo replaced Lucas Vazquez in the 65th minute with Los Blancos getting more of a foothold in the game and the Brazilian popped up with a late winner in a 1-0 success. 

Asked why Hazard, who played 66 minutes in the 5-2 LaLiga win against Celta Vigo at the weekend, did not feature in Milan, Ancelotti said: "I thought about putting him on in the second half, but Inter closed the centre of the pitch well. 

"I wanted to open up the game from the wings, which is why I put Rodrygo on." 

Rodrygo is yet to start a game under Ancelotti, but he has now scored in two of his three Champions League appearances against Inter - both of his strikes representing a winning goal,

Ancelotti has attempted to stop the 20-year-old worrying about the number of minutes he gets and instead get him focused on performing at the highest level when he is selected. 

"I told him it's not important how many minutes he plays, but how he plays them," Ancelotti told Movistar+.

"He helped [Dani] Carvajal a lot and then in front of goal he is very cool and scores goals. 

"With his introduction we played more on the wing and found the solution. I liked the game because he had to suffer and be compact. The team not only has quality, but it also has commitment." 

Rodrygo said: "Of course, I always want to play. When I'm on the pitch, I can do something for the team. 

"I want to play, but I respect the coach's decisions and I'm going to work hard to be able to be there. At Real Madrid it's always difficult." 

Real Madrid kept alive their LaLiga title hopes with an emphatic 4-1 win over Granada at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on Thursday. 

The result moved Zinedine Zidane's side above Barcelona into second, two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with just two games remaining in the season.

Luka Modric got them on their way early on with his fourth league goal of the campaign – the first time he has achieved that since 2011-12 with Tottenham in the Premier League – before Rodrygo doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Jorge Molina threatened to set up a dramatic finale with a goal 19 minutes from time, but Los Blancos comfortably sealed an 18th win in their last 19 games against Granada thanks to goals from Alvaro Odriozola and Karim Benzema.

Madrid started on the front foot and almost went ahead after 14 minutes, Benzema's header forcing a smart stop from Rui Silva. 

Zidane's men opened the scoring three minutes later, though, when Modric latched onto Miguel Gutierrez's sumptuous flicked ball over the top and rolled through Silva's legs from a tight angle. 

The visitors' dominance was rewarded again in first-half stoppage time when Rodrygo powered into the penalty area down the right-hand side and fired across Silva for his first LaLiga goal of a frustrating campaign.

Granada reduced the deficit inside the final 20 minutes, Molina stroking into an empty net after Thibaut Courtois had parried Luis Suarez's strike into his path. 

Substitute Odriozola settled any Madrid nerves, though, powering home after Eden Hazard's cross had fallen kindly to him in the 75th minute. 

Benzema added gloss to the scoreline a minute later, expertly  into an unguarded net from 35 yards after Silva's slapstick attempt to cut out Casemiro's long ball over the top.

Page 1 of 2
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.