Only a fortnight after making his debut as a teenager with Flamengo, Vinicius Junior was making football headlines around the world. The Brazilian penned a new contract with his club before his €45m release clause was met by Real Madrid with many questioning the price of the deal for someone with such little experience.
That move came before Neymar – who Vinicius has said is his ‘idol’ – left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record €222m move. Indeed, at the time the 17-year-old was at the time the second highest fee for a Brazilian footballer, behind only Neymar’s switch from Santos to the Camp Nou.
The forward had to wait a year, until he celebrated his 18th birthday, to make his move to European football and in that timeframe, he grew and developed further at his local club. By the time he arrived in Madrid last summer, the pressure and expectations were already massive but the player has stood up and been counted.
Initially playing for Madrid’s Castilla side this season, the teenage prodigy netted twice in the opening half-hour against Atletico Madrid B before being bitten on the back of the head by his opponent’s captain Tachi. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus and Madrid’s subsequent struggles in the final third strengthened the calls for Vinicius to be included in first-team football.
Those requests were finally met after the dismissal of Julen Lopetegui in October, with his replacement Santiago Solari regularly including Vinicius in his matchday squad. He has already scored four goals for Los Blancos in the timeframe since and has now notched up 11 La Liga appearances, being afforded an increasingly important role.
Madrid fans have been excited by Vinicius’s freshness and work rate, his daring and attacking intent – playing directly and regularly attempting to drive past opposition defenders. Indeed, that style has led teammate Thibaut Courtois to describe the Brazilian as playing in the same mould as Eden Hazard, to whom Madrid reportedly have a longstanding interest.
Vinicius is a hugely exciting talent, he gets fans on their feet and strikes fear into the heart of opposition defenders. His fearless style opens up matches that are otherwise drifting and he has played an important role in Madrid’s most recent four La Liga victories. Many Madridistas now believe he should be kept in a starting role, ahead of Gareth Bale.
The 18-year-old’s recent performances have been outstanding, with Solari and Madrid players regularly singing his praises. Vinicius is set to be joined at the Bernabeu by compatriot Rodryo Goes – also due to arrive in a €40m deal from Santos – next year, and the teenage Samba Boys may provide the long-term solution to Ronaldo’s absence in the Spanish capital.
Do you have what it takes to challenge the best La Liga Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for the challenge then play www.liga-fantasy.com now!