Vinicius Junior must be harnessed by Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid

Last season, he was pretty much the only reason to watch Real Madrid, at least for a period of the club’s 2018/19 campaign. Indeed, while the Santiago Bernabeu tried to quickly forget what happened last season, the emergence of Vinicius Junior was a bright point. It gave Real Madrid something to build on.

Vinicius almost single-handedly changed the tone around the Santiago Bernabeu after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui midway through the season. Until then, the teenage Brazilian had been kept at Castilla despite his obvious potential. It wasn’t until the appointment of Santiago Solari that Vinicius was unleashed and the impact he made was profound.

Since then, though, he has seemingly regressed. Injury ended Vinicius’ season early, but the Brazilian has struggled to pick up where he left off this season. Indeed, Zinedine Zidane has used the teenager sparingly. Vinicius has fallen down the pecking order even with Marco Asensio out injured for the long term and Gareth Bale still something of a scapegoat.

This was illustrated by the news that Vinicius has been left out of the matchday squad for Wednesday’s La Liga fixture against Leganes. As things stand, Zidane favours another teenage Brazilian, Rodrygo, with Lucas Vazquez, Isco and Luka Jovic also injured in the squad.

Vinicius has been a target for more criticism than most over the early part of Real Madrid’s season. Fans and pundits were afforded a glimpse of what the Brazilian can bring last season and they want more. But it is up to Zidane and Real Madrid to harness and protect the youngster.

Such was the impact made by Vinicius last season it’s easy to forget that he is still only 19-years-old. He still has a lot of growing to do, both as a person and a player. Sometimes, it seems that the teenager is trying to do too much and in this labouring he is losing the spontaneity that made him so potent before the summer.

Therefore it’s probably for the best that Zidane takes him out of the firing line for the time being. Real Madrid have the players to cope without him. The likes of Bale, Karim Benzema and Hazard can carry them in the final third. Vinicius remains a shimmering prospect for the future, but those around him must consider what is best for him in the present.

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Have Real Madrid forgotten about Vinicius?

Real Madrid tend to get their man, even if it takes a few years. Eden Hazard had long appeared destined to one day pull on the famous white jersey of the Spanish giants with the Belgian finally making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It’s a move that had been a long, long time in the making.

Of course, Real Madrid still have a void to fill after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Not just in terms of goals, but in terms of stardust. They need players who can handle the weight of carrying a club of such stature. Hazard certainly fits the bill in that regard.


But positionally and tactically, did Real Madrid really need Hazard? He is a left-sided attacker and it’s on the left side where Zinedine Zidane’s side are strongest. They have Marco Asensio, but more notably it’s where Vinicius Junior made himself the brightest teenage talent in Spanish football last season.

Indeed, the Brazilian was the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season. He was a revelation for Real Madrid, becoming their most important player for a spell between the turn of the year and Easter. Were it not for injury he might well have done more to save Real Madrid’s campaign.

It was expected that Vinicius would hold down a starting place next season, but will that still be the case now that Hazard has been signed? Can Zidane find a way to fit both the Brazilian and the Belgian into the same team? If he can’t, could the money used to spend Hazard have been used elsewhere?

Real Madrid had a number of positions to fill this summer. They needed a centre forward and got one in the form of Luka Jovic, signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after an excellent season in Germany. They needed a left back and got one in the form of Ferland Mendy, signed from Lyon.

Zidane also needs a central playmaker, with Real Madrid linked with both Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. Might it be the case that Hazard becomes more of a central force so that both he and Vinicius can be accommodated in the same side? He has, after all, played that role on occasion for Belgium.

Real Madrid needed players who could perform here and now. But they mustn’t neglect their future in the process of overhauling their team. Hazard represents the here and now, while Vinicius represents their future. The challenge for Zidane is to look after both.

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Barca could end Solari’s Real Madrid career

Screenshot 2019-02-28 at 20.15.09

Earlier this season, Julen Lopetegui knew definitively that his Real Madrid coaching tenure was over when Los Blancos were hammered 5-1 at the Camp Nou.

The manner of the defeat left Florentino Perez no other option, notwithstanding that the president needs no excuse to exercise his trigger finger. Continue reading

Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under Ronaldo’s shadow

There was a sense of confusion, bafflement, around the Santiago Bernabeu as the full time whistle blew on Real Madrid’s 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona, on their 2018/19 Copa del Rey campaign, on Wednesday night. The home supporters had seen their team ragdoll their fiercest rivals for the majority of the 90 minutes, yet it was they who ended up on the wrong end of the emphatic scoreline.

Indeed, the statistics at full time made for bemusing reading. Real Madrid managed 14 shots on goal compared to Barcelona’s four. What’s more, many of those efforts from Real Madrid were high quality chances. Vinicius Junior in particular was presented with a number of opportunities to find the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo

When it mattered most, Real Madrid lacked cutting edge. They had been in good form coming into the Copa del Rey semi final. Their first leg draw at Camp Nou set them up nicely to make the final of a competition they haven’t won in five years. And yet Barcelona showed them up when the pressure was on.

This is where Cristiano Ronaldo was so important for Real Madrid in years gone by. The kind of performance turned in by Los Meringues on Wednesday night wasn’t especially unusual, it’s just that previously they had Ronaldo to drag them through, to get them over the line.

Nine months after his departure to Juventus, Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under the shadow of their former Portuguese forward. A few weeks ago, it seemed that Karim Benzema was filling the void, scoring six goals in a run of five games, but that streak has since come to a halt.

Vinicius has widely been labelled the Ronaldo replacement at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with good reason. The emergence of the Brazilian teenager was a turning point in Real Madrid’s season. He has given them a forward thrust that they had been previously lacking. Many of their attacking moves flow through him.

However, Vinicius is still a teenager and there’s only so much he can do on his own. The majority of the opportunities he spurned on Wednesday night were of his own making. Relying on him to create and score is not a sustainable plan for Real Madrid in the post-Ronaldo age. The defeat to Barcelona exposed the problems that they are still facing.

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Real Madrid all but surrender late title bid with shock defeat to Girona

Real Madrid v Girona

Last Sunday morning, the Santiago Bernabeu bore witness to what may well have been the end of Real Madrid’s thin hopes of a late La Liga title challenge.

The Spanish giants and current Champions League holders stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to bottom-half side Girona in front of their disillusioned fans.

Girona are enjoying only their third season in the top flight of Spanish football having been promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the fantasy football heroes and zeroes after this surprise win for the Catalonian club.

Vinicius Junior provides spark for Real Madrid attack

Vinicius Junior

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. Continue reading

Ronaldo’s takeover of Real Valladolid should help the club progress

ronaldoWhen Real Valladolid secured their return to La Liga at the end of the 2017/18 season after four seasons away from the Spanish top flight, few could have envisioned what the immediate future would hold at José Zorrilla. Back in May rumours began swirling that legendary former Brazilian striker Ronaldo could be considering buying a controlling stake in the club, and those were proven correct when he spent around €30m to purchase 51% last month. The 42-year-old is of course no stranger to La Liga, having spent time at both Barcelona and Real Madrid during his glittering playing career – and so having such a big name owning the club can surely only be of benefit?

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Real Madrid and Vinicius must show patience


When Real Madrid announced their latest signing in May 2017, eyebrows were raised across the sporting world. It was not the name, reputation or quality that drew surprise, with Vinicius Junior said to be among the brightest young talents in Brazilian football. But it was the fee and context of the deal which opened eyes.

Madrid had triggered the forward’s €45m release clause despite the fact he had made his professional debut for Flamengo only a fortnight earlier. At the time it was the second highest fee for a Brazilian player, behind only Neymar’s switch from Santos to Barcelona. Continue reading

Three U-20 players to keep an eye on in Spain this upcoming season


We as humans are always in search of the latest and the greatest. Whether it be that new smartphone, car or video game; we all want to have at least one foot running in the rat race of relevance.

Football fans are no different. Established players are usually the bed rocks of our club’s success, but there will always be that wandering eye towards players of the future that could eventually take on the mantle left by their predecessors.

Going into this new LaLiga season, there are a handful of young, yet promising starlets that should raise the collective interest of fans everywhere. These U-20 players may be inexperienced, but what they lack in that department is more than made up for in talent that is primed to leave a sizeable impact on their squads now, or in the coming future.

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at three U-20 players to keep an eye on in Spain this season.

Vinícius Júnior (Real Madrid)

Since being snacthed up by Real Madrid at just the tender age of 17, the spotlight has burnt bright on Brazil’s latest footballing prodigy. Purchased for a reported fee of €46 million, Vinícius’ price tag represented the highest amount ever paid by a club for a footballer under the age of 19. Due to a rule forbidding international transfers to move clubs before their 18th birthday, Vinícius had to wait a year before taking his talents to the Spanish capital.

Recruited in preseason to join the first team on strict orders by manager Julen Lopetegui, the Brazilian finally got his opportunity to showcase his skill set. Throughout all of his appearances, Vinícius displayed a change of pace that can flummox defenders. The use of his body for positioning and the ability to dart out of tight spaces was a recipe for drawing countless fouls or creating for his teammates.

Nevertheless, his inexperience at this level of professional football still remains evident. Having spent just one year with Flamengo’s senior side, aspects such as his finishing ability and the accuracy of his passes still need to be refined. Whether Lopetegui is willing to help him polish his game this season remains to be seen, as he may prefer for the Brazilian to work out the kinks with Castilla.


Riqui Puig (Barcelona)

For as long as many could remember, La Maisa’s conveyor belt produced an endless supply of world class talent. Barcelona’s first team was constantly being replenished with young players who were able to step in and maintain the sides incredible level of success. To the surprise of many, the pool of talented players emanating from their youth set-up has dried up considerably in recent years.

After a prolonged wait that has divided much of the fan base, it seems Barcelona have finally uncovered their next gem, a player who has already drawn praise from the likes of Xavi and AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso. His name is Riqui Puig, and he is baby faced 18-year-old center midfielder who finally received his long awaited shot with the first team in this summer’s ICC.

Intelligent beyond his years, Puig has already drawn plenty of comparisons to club legend, Andres Iniesta. Whether it’s his feathery touch, birds-eye vision, or calmness in the face of oncoming pressure, Puig has culés excited about the future of their midfield for the first time in a while.


Fran Beltrán (Celta Vigo)

Going into last season, expectations for Rayo Vallecano were tepid at best. If all things shook right, many pipped them to have an outside shot for the play-offs in the Segunda. Little did they know, the goliath-like performances of one of the smallest players on the pitch would springboard them to promotion after a two-year absence from Spain’s top-flight.

Standing at a mere 5ft 5in, 19-year-old Fran Beltrán can be an easy player to miss initially. However, once the whistle is blown, the midfielder is able to captivate your eyes with his incredible ability. Positioned primarily as a deep-playing midfielder, Beltrán made the bulk of his impact at Rayo through his tireless motor and ability to obtain and retain possession.

Purchased by Celta Vigo for €8m, the Spaniard’s acquisition could prove to be one of the bargains of the summer. His role in Galicia will likely be altered, as a potential partnership next to the more stationary Stanislav Lobotka could see Antonio Mohamed ask Beltrán to push forward and be creative force in the team. With his adept passing ability and the desire to succeed at any cost, Beltrán could prove to be one of Celta’s most important figures this upcoming season.

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Modric wants Inter move but Real to battle for him

modric2Croatia star Luka Modric is understood to be desperate to leave Real Madrid in order to move to Inter Milan, but Los Blancos are remaining defiant in their efforts to keep the former Tottenham midfielder at the Bernabeu. With the transfer window closing on 31st August for both La Liga and Serie A sides there is still time for this deal to be done, but the two clubs appear to be at something of an impasse on the situation at the moment. Modric is, of course, among the world’s finest midfielders and with Real having already lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus this summer they will be eager to avoid another big name departure for Serie A. Modric himself, though, has made no secret of his desire to join Luciano Spalletti’s side.

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