Rodrigo Moreno 21 Striker Benfica
Rodrigo Moreno Machado was extremely close to not being on this list. Despite a prolific scoring streak as a youth team player with Celta Vigo and an impressive haul of strikes at junior international level, we were unconvinced by the Brazil born forward as 2011 drew to a close.
We weren’t the only ones. Despite being snatched from Celta by Real Madrid in 2010 and ascending rapidly through the ranks at the Santiago Bernabéu, Real were more than happy to accept Benfica’s €6m offer for a teenage striker just one year after acquiring his services. A series of assurances from ‘in the know’ types in Spain meant we took something of a leap of faith when publishing this list in December 2011 by including the boy Rodrigo. It’s a good job we listened.
While the fee set by Madrid appeared excessive, Benfica were exceptionally keen. Glorioso had tracked the player during his time at Celta, were keen to purchase when Real first stepped in and were pleased to finally land the Spanish Under 19 international at the second time of asking. Interested to see how Rodrigo fared elsewhere over the coming years, Madrid retained an option to buy their former player back at a future date, a clause that was later removed as part of the deal that took Fábio Coentrão to the Bernabéu.
Benfica knew what they were doing. Keeping their player back until fully ready, Rodrigo was offered on loan to a number of European sides, with a spell of toughening up in the English Premier League at Bolton Wanderers the preferred destination for player and club.
A total of nineteen appearances under Owen Coyle, predominantly as a substitute, offered Rodrigo the chance to try something different and he was clearly adapting to the unforgiving Premier League style of play during his stay in the North West. A request for a further loan period at Bolton in the 2011-12 season was rejected by Benfica as they readied their young striker for regular selection in Portugal’s top flight.
During the last year Moreno has performed well, very well actually, and the faith that Benfica maintained in their young striker has been rewarded. From a mixture of starts and substitute appearances over the last eighteen months, Rodrigo has managed a goal every 124 minutes for his current employer, an excellent return for any striker. Goals are continuing to arrive in more frequent bursts and Rodrigo is starting to look the finished article as a top class finisher in a strong division. If we are going to draw comparisons here, we see lot of Guiseppe Rossi, the injury prone Italian front man who also possesses a knack of being in the right place at the right time.
International level has been a pleasant hunting ground too, and Rodrigo’s superb record for the Spanish under 21’s (11 strikes from 7 starts) suggest that it will not be too long before the Rio born hitman finds himself in Vicente del Bosque’s plans….especially if Brazil consider exercising their right to make a call.
"For such a youthful player he's got lovely fluid movement, and his finishing is deadly. Only problem at the moment is he can't into the team ahead of Lima & Cardozo. He will though, massive long contract and buyout clause." - Ben Shave (PortuGOAL)
C+ More than just a poacher, but goalscoring looks so easy. Could be a major player for years to come