Manuel Veth –
Esporte Clube Bahia are one of the smaller clubs in the Brazilian Serie A located in Salvador in Brazil’s poor Northeast Region Bahia, however, have also produced the likes of Dani Alves, Serginho and Paulo Sergio. While Dani Alves is in the twilight of his career and Serginho and Paulo Sergio have long retired the two-time champions of Brazil (1959 and 1988) may soon include another famous graduate in the form of CSKA Moscow defender Rodrigo Becão.
CSKA Moscow secured the services of the 22-year-old defender this summer in a one-year loan deal. It was a bit of a gamble by head coach Viktor Goncharenko, who had been tasked to renew a side that was among the most experienced in the Russian Premier Liga last season.
The retirement of Sergei Ignashevich and the Berezutski twins Vasili and Aleksei, however, left a big hole in the defence of the Koni. Furthermore, CSKA were not able to break the bank as the club had recently invested big sums in the construction of the new VEB-Arena and were the retirement of key players meant that the club did not receive a windfall from transfers.
That windfall only arrived in the form of Aleksandr Golovin’s transfer to Monaco at the end of July, at a point in which the Russian Premier Liga was already in full swing. At that point, Rodrigo Becão had already been with the club for a full month.
Rodrigo Becão – A bit Ignashevich a bit Berezutski
Signed on July 1, 2018, from Bahia Rodrigo Becão was quickly identified by CSKA as a potential replacement for the outgoing Ignashevich and Berezutski twins. Tall at 191cm and physically strong Rodrigo Becão resembled Ignashevich the most, whose pragmatic play won the hearts and minds of Russia fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The problem, however, was that Rodrigo Becão lacked playing time in Brazil. Nonetheless, head coach Goncharenko was convinced that Rodrigo Becão could add something unique to the team.
“Becão is physical and has good speed,” the head coach told the media following the Brazilians presentation at the training camp in Austria. Following two weeks at the training camp, Goncharenko was also quick to draw comparisons between Rodrigo Becão and the retired Ignashevich. “Becão is the sort of rock the team needs at its core similar to what we had with Berezutskis and Ignashevich,” Goncharenko said.
At that point at the training camp that was still all theory, however. The main question was how Rodrigo Becão would perform in league games despite having played just once for Bahia this season?
The answer is the lack of playing time was no problem whatsoever. Even communication with his new defensive partners Hördur Magnússon (Iceland) and Nikita Chernov (Russia) went alright “we speak to each other in three languages,” the Brazilian said jokingly to the media in August.
With Viktor Goncharenko often opting to start three at the back a big integration was necessary. Nonetheless, it was a difficult start for the club. In the first six games of the RPL season, CSKA won just twice drawing three and losing one. Hence, the club was criticised by parts of the Russian media for not spending enough on the transfer market this summer – especially after Golovin was sold for €30 million.
Owner Evgeni Giner, in particular, was criticised for once again stiffing on the transfer market. In fairness, CSKA could be criticised for their recruitment up front, in particular, after newly signed striker Abel Hernandez, who already arrived injured, went down with another injury.
A steal on the transfer market
Defensively, the club got it right, however. Even during the start of the season, CSKA conceded just three goals in the first six matches. CSKA may not have been able to score many during that period (nine), but when they did score, they knew that the back three would likely take care of things.
One of the main reasons for defensive security? Rodrigo Becão! On September 19, sports.ru run a story on the defender titled: “Nobody knows him in Brazil, but he is the best defender in the RPL. CSKA’s luck with Becão.”
Sports.ru were right. Relatively unknown in Brazil the defender was a perfect fit for Russian football. “In Brazil, it is more about technical football then in Russia,” Rodrigo Becão explained the main difference between the two leagues. Hence, his physical abilities were less in demand in his home country than in Russia where many clubs play with three in the back relying on no-nonsense defenders, who can quickly play the ball up the field rather than trying to go into a dribble the way Lucio or David Luiz have practised it throughout their careers.
By the end of October, Rodrigo Becão was ranked among the best players in Russia according to the statistics page Whoscored.com. The 22-year-old Brazilian led all defenders at CSKA with 2.4 tackles and 0.8 blocks per game and was only second behind Nikita Chernov in clearances with 3.1 per game.
His passing numbers were also impressive as on average he managed to complete 83.1% of his 56.5 passes played per game, which was second only to attacking midfielder Ivan Oblyakov, who only played 39.4 passes per game on average. Finally, he was second among field players behind teammate Hördur Magnússon in long balls played up the field – a statistic that highlights the chemistry between the two as Rodrigo Becão is often in charge of winning the ball and then laying it off to Magnusson, who will then play a long outlet pass.
Those numbers alone highlight Rodrigo Becão’s importance to CSKA Moscow’s squad. But perhaps the crowning achievement was his game against Real Madrid. In that game, CSKA scored a goal within 65 seconds to take the lead and then shut the door to shock Real at home at the Luznhiki.
Rodrigo Becão’s performance drew comparisons with Sergio Ramos in Russia. The Brazilian showed tenacity and will that has defined the game of the Real Madrid captain. The 22-year-old made five clearances and two interceptions at crucial moments to help Viktor Goncharenko mastermind one of the greatest upsets in Champions League history.
It was the sort of performance that put the Brazilian on the map and have seen his transfer value rise from €400,000 to €2.5 million in a recent re-evaluation on transfermarkt.de. CSKA are understood to trigger the buy-on clause of the Brazilian defender sooner or later. After all defenders of his ability, a rare and with CSKA always looking for a bargain that can be made to money down the road expect Rodrigo Becão’s contract to be renewed sooner rather than later.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.