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In many countries, football often feels like more than a sport. Indeed, more like a religion. One country this could be said about is Uruguay.
When the Uruguay U-20 team won the World Cup, the South American nation quickly embraced a new generation of young heroes – and the most mentioned name in the Uruguayan newspapers after the victory was Luciano Rodriguez, the scorer of the winning goal in the final against Italy U-20.
Uruguay has a glorious football past. They have won two World Cups and 15 Copa Americas, although the team has only one major trophy in the last 28 years. Uruguay hoped that the generation of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez would bring back a third World Cup title, but they lost in the semifinal of the World Cup 2010. Now, however, the South American nation has new hope in Luciano Rodriguez and his generation.
Luciano Rodriguez started playing football in Bella Vista, the club based in Montevideo – Uruguay’s capital. Bella Vista do not belong to the best Uruguayan league, so Luciano Rodriguez moved to Progreso in 2020. The youngster didn’t debut for the Progreso senior team until 17th January 2021, when Rodriguez came off the bench in the 77th minute. Although the forward scored only one goal in 2021, his talent was more than obvious, so coach Maximiliano Viera continued to give him chances in the starting lineup throughout the year.
Luciano Rodriguez got the opportunity to taste Primera Division football in 2021, but the team didn’t play well, so they were relegated to the second division. In the second division, Progreso won only 31 points from 27 matches, but the 19-year-old Luciano Rodriguez got more chances to play. In 18 league appearances in 2022, the forward scored five goals.
It was clear that Luciano Rodriguez had outgrown Progreso and the second division so, in January 2023, he moved to Liverpool Montevideo for almost 500k euros. Even so, most football experts didn’t hear much about Luciano Rodriguez out of Uruguay until the South America U-20 championship was played earlier this year. Uruguay finished 2nd overall, while Luciano Rodriguez finished the tournament with five goals and three assists.
Luciano Rodriguez’s road to recognition continued at the World Cup U-20, played in Argentina in May and June. He started in the attacking line in the first four matches. Unfortunately, in the 1/8 final against Gambia, Luciano Rodriguez received a direct red card for violent conduct, so he was suspended for the next two games. Although he got the red card, the head coach Marcelo Broli didn’t miss an opportunity to start him in the final against Italy. The player repaid him in the 86th minute of the most important game in the tournament when he scored the header from close range.
Luciano Rodriguez is a prototype of the modern forward. Although he started mostly as a right winger at the World Cup U-20, he also covers left-wing and centre-forward positions. His quickness, dribbling, passing, and vision make him a very interesting young player to watch. Also, at the South America U-20 championship, Luciano Rodriguez scored a few goals from outside the box, which is another attribute that we shouldn’t ignore.
Uruguay has produced some great forwards in the last few decades, like Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez, and Edinson Cavani. Luciano Rodriguez could be the next big player to emerge from this talented South American country.