The mysterious and much-hyped Vinicius Junior has arrived at Real Madrid, who now have to decide whether to give youth and talent a chance
Real Madrid signed Vinicius Junior for around $50 million dollars a year ago, which understandably generated controversy, as at the time it made the then 16-year-old Flamengo player the most expensive teenager in football history. But now, this deal is already starting to look like a bargain in today’s market.
Vinicius Junior struggled a lot with inconsistency during the period when Real Madrid officially reached an agreement to sign him, before loaning him back to his Brazilian club. But the Flamengo attacker quickly improved, gained momentum and imposed himself as one of the team’s best players and vital goal-scorers. proving himself in both the Brazilian league and the Copa Libertadores.
It is worth mentioning that until the moment Vini was snapped up by Madrid, the Carioca giants were on top of the league with convincing team-displays in general, and impressive individual performances from the rising youngster.
Real Madrid has always been a controversial destination for young South Americans. However, in the last decade or so it is fair to say that the club has made enormous progress in terms of helping their new signings adapt to European football. Robinho, for all the criticism he receives for the way his career ended, actually had two excellent campaigns between 2006 and 2008, and left the Santiago Bernabéu on a high, after winning La Liga – the moment he opted to switch to Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Marcelo and Gonzalo Higuain developed into two of the best players in the world, whereas Casemiro, Fabinho and Willian José also became some of their respective leagues’ best players.
It is true that Vinicius leaving Flamengo so early on is a very big risk, and something that would not have happened a few years ago. For example, even Neymar who was considered a bigger talent, did not leave Santos until the age of 21. But then, Gabriel Jesus left Palmeiras at 19, so you have to wonder where this is all heading. But the reality is something that must be dealt with, rather than running away from it. And so is the reality of football today: the gap between South America and Europe is at an all-time high, something that even the World Cup confirmed in Russia 2018, with four European national teams dominating the semi-finals.
Vinicius has a lot of technical quality, pace, trickery in his feet, ability to take on opponents or even send them the wrong way. But these aren’t enough to succeed at the top level of European football. End product is more than a must, nowadays. In Brazil, VJR showed that he has the potential to turn into a very good goalscorer, perhaps a Cristiano Ronaldo-prototype.
But now is the question, what is the best way to bring the best out of the 18-year-old? Real Madrid are torn apart between loaning him to a Spanish side in an attempt to guarantee him playing time in La Liga, or keeping him with following the departure of CR7, while sending him to the Castilla B-side for the weeks when he isn’t part of the match-squad. I feel that the latter is not a bad idea, especially now that the Brazilian has made it clear in his statements, that if it were up to him, he would like to stay and prove his worth at the ranks of the Champions of Europe.