Real Madrid has become a home for Brazil’s next generation

Reinier Jesus will at least have some countrymen to help him settle into his new surroundings in the Spanish capital. Last week saw Real Madrid complete a deal to sign the Brazilian midfielder for £26 million from Flamengo with the 18-year-old putting pen to paper on a six-year contract. Reinier is just the next player in a long string of Brazilians to have pitched up at the Santiago Bernabeu recently.

First, Vinicius Junior arrived, making the move from Flamego to Real Madrid after his 18th birthday in the summer of 2018 for a fee of around £40 million. A year later Rodrygo made the move from Santos to the Spanish capital for a fee of around £35 million. The two players have been compared ever since, playing a similar role at a similar age from the same country for the same club. Now they will be joined by Reinier, a player likened to Kaka in the way he plays the game.

Of course, Real Madrid are a club that has long been fascinated with Brazilian football. The Santiago Bernabeu has been home to the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Kaka and Robinho over the years. Now, Real Madrid is once again harnessing a group of Brazilian players.

This time is slightly different. Previously, Real Madrid targeted Brazilian players like Kaka and Ronaldo once they had already risen to the top of the sport. In contrast, Reinier, Rodrygo and Vinicius Real Madrid have this time gone straight to the source, luring these players directly from the country of their origin.

Patience will be required to develop the trio into the world class operators Real Madrid have bought them to be. That isn’t always in abundance at the Santiago Bernabeu where fans expect immediate results, but Rodrygo and Vinicius have shown that it’s possible to make an immediate impact at one of the biggest clubs in world football.

Reinier is the son of Mauro Brasilia, a Brazilian futsal legend, and is considered one of the country’s brightest midfield prospects. He scored six goals in 14 appearances for Flamengo last season as the club went on to win the league title. Real Madrid will now look to harness Reinier in the same way they have done with Rodrygo and Vinicius. A large part of the future of the club can be found in these three players.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

Vinicius Junior starting to rediscover last season’s form

In Belgium, Real Madrid were carried by their Baby Brazilians. Comparisons between Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior are natural given their nationality and style of play, not to mention their tender age, but all too often the discourse around them recently has been to use one to beat the other with. The win over Club Bruges showed that the pair can combine to great effect.

It’s certainly true that Rodrygo has started the season in the better form. Indeed, the 18-year-old has very quickly become a key figure for Real Madrid, scoring six times in 11 appearances. Zinedine Zidane has made it clear that he is a fan of the teenager and sees a big future for him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

For Vinicius, it’s been a different tale this season. The Brazilian burst on to the scene last year, drafted into the first team squad by Santiago Solari following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui. Vinicius instantly lifted everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu at a time when they needed a lift. Within a few weeks he was arguably Real Madrid’s most important player alongside Karim Benzema.

Injury curtailed Vinicius’ season, though, and he struggled to rediscover that early form over the early part of the 2019/20 campaign. The Spanish capital is an unforgiving footballing environment and some sections of the Real Madrid support has started to turn against the young Brazilian as he toiled.

More recently, though, Vinicius has looked more like the player the Santiago Bernabeu fell in love with last season. A frequent lack of a final product is still an issue for the 19-year-old, as it was last season, but he has now found the back of the net in games against Osasuna and Club Brugge, also impressing against Espanyol and Eibar in recent weeks.

This serves as a lesson to those quick to write off Vinicius earlier in the season that young players, especially ones as talented as he is, need time and patience to develop. The Brazilian’s talent is clear for all to see, he just needs the right environment for that to come through. Rodrygo might have stolen the majority of the headlines this season, he might have stolen a march on Vinicius as Real Madrid’s most promising teenage Brazilian, but there is room for both to succeed at the Santiago Bernabeu.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

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.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

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.

vinicius-junior-jugara-en-el-castilla_139548

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.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

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.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

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?

Continue reading

Real Madrid and Vinicius must show patience

vinicius-junior-jugara-en-el-castilla_139548

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