“Some players take time to flourish. But when they do flourish, they become a box-office hit and continue to shine. Vinicius Junior is taking time to flourish and at the moment, he is showcasing his talent on a consistent basis. Maybe we are not very far from witnessing one of the best in world football in the coming days”
When it became clearer that Kylian Mbappe would not don the shirt of Real Madrid this season, it certainly hit the expectations of the Madridistas very hard. They were expecting something big during this summer transfer – but Florentino Perez signed an exciting young talent named Eduardo Camavinga and invested faith in Carlo Ancelotti and the young guns in his club – especially the Brazilian – Vinicius Junior.
Vinicius came to Real Madrid by creating a lot of hype three years ago and it has taken him a while to adapt and settle, which triggered impatience among the fans and critics to question his signing.
The comparisons with Neymar were inevitable given their nationality and the fact both moved to La Liga at a young age, but it must be remembered that Neymar arrived at Barcelona at 21 years old and was very much already an internationally renowned star.
Last season, Vinicius showed glimpses of what was to come as Zinedine Zidane gave him more opportunities and he responded with displays such as the one against Liverpool when his brace helped Los Blancos reach the Champions League semi-finals.
By the end of the campaign, the CIES Football Observatory had him rated as the most valuable player in Real Madrid’s squad.
Still, the finishing of Vinicius made him a target of harsh criticisms from the fans.
Despite all the trolls, Vinicius never lost hope and kept on working on his shortcomings and all those hard work has started to pay off this season, which was supposed to be the season of Mbappe.
In just six La Liga games so far, he’s scored five times and has already overtaken his previous best tally for domestic goals of three. He’s just one goal shy of equalling his best goalscoring season at Real Madrid and it’s only September. He has, along with Benzema, Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, and Fede Valverde, played in every game under Carlo Ancelotti so far.
His appearance against Real Mallorca marked his 125th for the club at 21 years, two months and 10 days old, having already become one of the youngest players to hit a century of appearances at the club.
Vinicius’ 100th appearance came on March 1, and only Camacho, Iker Casillas and Raul Gonzalez did it at a younger age.
Since hitting 100 appearances, Vinicius has played every Real Madrid match, taking him to 125 now. Eighteen of those came last season, with the other seven this term.
At Vinicius’ age now, Sergio Ramos had played 99 times for the club, Marcelo 72, Nacho Fernandez two, and Benzema hadn’t yet debuted. Casillas’ total of 136 games by Vinicius’ current age isn’t much higher.
Last season, only Courtois (51) played more than the Brazilian’s 49 games, and he’s featured in 56 of the last 59 Real Madrid matches. Under Ancelotti, Vinicius has become untouchable.
La Liga has found its superstar and that is none other than the Brazilian “Novo Neymar” – Vinicius Junior.
One of the most striking points this season and which is the finishing ability of Vinicius – five goals from six games only shows his improvement than the previous seasons.
A right-footed, but left-sided attacker – Vinicius has offered flair, flamboyance, pace, dribbling and goals – that is making him the poster boy of Real Madrid.
He is beating the defenders regularly, doing so more often than not by pushing the ball past his opponents and quickly accelerating in the direction that he has moved the ball rather than through his manipulation of the ball and quick feet, like Neymar.
He can do so to either side effectively and sometimes even lifting it over a defender before attempting to retain possession on the other side of them. Such is his confidence that he will also regularly try to nudge the ball through an opponent’s legs.
He failed more often than not, but there is no sign that he will not continue to try and he is always trying to iron out the chinks in his armour.
His impressive acceleration means that opponents cannot commit to closing Vinicius down too tightly if he receives the ball while wide.
His movement is extremely clever and a crucial part of what makes him so effective. He shows great awareness both of where space is and how to use it – he often uses quick in-to-out movements to draw an opponent towards the ball before spinning out into the space he has created.
The dribbling abilities of Vinicius made him a spectacle at age level football, but at the top level, it became one of his enemies.
His natural instinct to dribble the ball too much aided the opposition defender standing on the last line of defence hamper his rhythm quickly and gain control over the ball from Vinicius.
More often his decision-making when one-on-one with a goalkeeper or defender always let him down.
The short passing and link play of Vinicius was not particularly strong, but he did show glimpses of ability when combining in intricate areas around the edge of the area. If a pass was misplaced, Vinicius had been quick to react and counter-press that reaped a rich harvest.
The pieces were needed to be joined together to galvanize such a gifted boy and it was Ancelotti, who stepped up to help Vinicius.
Following the match against Levante, Carlo Ancelotti revealed the Brazilian’s new focus:
“Vinicius is very good in one-on-one situations. As for scoring goals, I’ve told him that it’s rare to score after taking five or six touches. To score, you need one-touch or maybe two maximum. You have to be in the box.”
It worked and Vinicius has rediscovered himself – All five goals have been scored inside the area. All four goals, once inside the area, have been with two or fewer touches.
Famous blogging site, Managing Madrid states, “He has taken an average of two additional (+2) shots per game and an average of (+2.5) additional shots on target per game. He has reduced the number of yards from where he shoots by (-2.6) yards vs last season and by (-6.3) yards since his 2018-2019 season when he first broke out. The closer you are to goal, the better chance of scoring. More shots, more shots on target, and closer to goal = higher probability of goals. The Brazilian’s per 90 non-penalty xG is a mouth-watering 0.76 — a figure that will likely fall, but if the above metrics on shots and distance hold, will not be way off.”
“It’s not only the Brazilian’s shooting that has improved but his positioning as well. He is starting higher up the pitch, positioning himself on the oppositions’ backline, ready to ignite a transition. Data from Fbref, shows Vinicius is pressing half as much as he did last season, instead of conserving that energy for the counterattack. He is taking an average of 7 more touches in the final third per game (+21% vs. last year), and receiving +1 additional progressive passes in the final third vs. last season.”
“At the game level I see a player with impressive one-on-one ability,” a happy Ancelotti told the reporters before the roster against Valencia.
“Today’s Vinicius is the same that I saw when he was not here, what happens is that this season he started scoring and that has given him confidence. I am not a magician, just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities.”
“Vinicius has taken the team on our backs on several occasions and at this moment is what he has to do, when he is more a veteran he will be able to put his character and experience.”
Some players take time to flourish. But when they do flourish, they become a box-office hit and continue to shine. Vinicius Junior is taking time to flourish and at the moment, he is showcasing his talent on a consistent basis. Maybe we are not very far from witnessing one of the best in world football in the coming days.