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Real’s ‘new Neymar’ announces himself with perfect hat-trick

Brazilian forward Rodrygo announced himself on club football’s biggest stage with a ‘perfect’ hat-trick in Real Madrid’s 6-0 defeat of Galatasaray.

The 18-year-old became the second youngest player to score a Champions League treble, behind only Real legend Raul.

He has already been labelled the “new Neymar”, having followed in the Paris St-Germain star’s footsteps by moving from Brazilian club Santos to Spain.

Outside of South America, little was known about the 5ft 9in youngster – who is the the same height as Neymar – before his summer switch to Real.

Since then, Rodrygo has scored five times in his first six appearances for the club in all competitions.

“Hearing the Bernabeu singing my name is a dream come true,” Rodrygo said. “I’m so happy, it has been a joyous night but I must try and stay calm.”

The Bernabeu were saluting the teenager as early as the fourth minute when he clinically opened the scoring, left-footed, from his fellow countryman Marcelo’s pass.

He got his second three minutes later as he headed in superbly from another Marcelo cross, becoming the first player to score twice in the first seven minutes of a Champions League game.

He was denied the chance of a quickfire hat-trick shortly afterwards, when captain Sergio Ramos stepped up to score a penalty after Steven Nzonzi had fouled Toni Kroos.

But Rodrygo provided an assist for Benzema on the stroke of half-time and the Frenchman returned the favour in second-half stoppage time.

The teenager – whose full name is Rodrygo Silva de Goes – completed his ‘perfect’ hat-trick as he poked in with his right foot to cap a crushing 6-0 win.

Rodrygo ‘learns very fast’ – Zidane
Rodrygo

“He doesn’t surprise me,” said Real boss Zinedine Zidane. “He has a bit of everything.

“He is intelligent, he learns very fast and wants to learn and improve.

“Physically he has to get better but technically, he knows how to do everything with the ball.”

Benzema added: “Rodrygo is only 18 years old but he is fearless. I love to see a young footballer play this way.”

Wayne Rooney – also then 18 – was older than Rodyrgo when he scored a Champions League hat-trick on his Manchester United debut against another Turkish side, Fenerbahce, in 2004.

Benzema’s record-equalling 15-year streak

Benzema’s brace saw him score in a 15th consecutive Champions League campaign, becoming only the second player – after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – to achieve the feat.

The 31-year-old French striker’s first Champions League goal came at the age of 17, when he scored for Lyon against Rosenborg on 6 December, 2005.

That was his only goal of that European campaign, and he netted just once in Europe the following term too and just once in 2009-10, after his £25m move to Real in 2009.

In his 15 Champions League seasons he has scored 62 times, averaging more than four a season.

He has never been the top scorer in a Champions League season, but is fourth on the competition’s all-time goalscoring list, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and Raul.

The Frenchman scored against Liverpool in the final in 2018 and helped his side win four European titles between that year and 2014.

Messi became the first player to score in 15 straight Champions League seasons just two weeks before Benzema.

The Argentine set the record in a narrow win at Slavia Prague on 23 October.

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