Vinicius Jr: The Brazilian teenage wonder kid
Vinicius Jr: The Brazilian teenage wonder kid ‘headlining’ La Liga
Florentino Perez’s obsession with Neymar has caused him so much torment but we can all agree Vinicius Jr: the Brazilian teenage wonder kid, will just act as a perfect substitute. When Vinicius agreed to his staggering 38 million euros switch to Real Madrid in May 2017, plenty of questions were asked of the Spanish club’s judgement.
Prior to Solari’s arrival in October, Vinicius hadn’t started a single game for Real Madrid’s seniors, previous coach Julen Lopetegui opting for a little-by-little approach with the summer signing and forcing him to spend most of his time with Castilla, only picking up the odd first team minute here or there.
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Santiago Solari has made a number of big calls since he took charge of Real Madrid. Yet the most significant of them, in the long run, could be his handling of 18-year-old Vinicius Junior, with the manager quickly deciding the winger is not only a talent for the future, but also one for the present.
His meteoric rising career
The teenager made his debut for the Spanish giants on his 18th birthday last year, when he had not even made his competitive debut for Brazil’s most popular club, Flamengo.
He had, though, been the star man and top scorer at the U17 South American Youth Championships in Chile, scoring seven goals. That was enough to persuade Real Madrid to part with a record fee for a teenager, a move which was possibly spurred on by their experience of missing out on Neymar to rivals Barcelona in 2013.
Solari started the attacker in his first game in charge, a Copa del Rey game against UD Melilla, and the signs were already promising that evening. Doing well against lower level opposition is one thing though, and doing it against Spain’s elite is another.
The amount of pressure on his shoulders should not be under stated. At a time in which Madrid fans have been desperately searching for someone to get excited about post-Cristiano Ronaldo, Vinicius quickly and unfairly became the cross-bearer expected to give the European Champions the jolt they needed to awaken from their Lopetegui-era slumber.
Grabbing attention for the right reasons
For a player who is such an exceptional dribbler, he is notably resistant to showboating, invariably making the right decision that improves the move for his team instead of risking a loss of possession in the pursuit of individual acts.
His bravery on the ball allowed the young star to showcase glimpses of his talent throughout 2017. Given the type of player he is, he has attracted the attention of roughhouse defenders, which is said to be of concern to his parent club. However, more often than not the durable youngster bounces right back up or simply rides the challenges.
For South American players to succeed, they need to have the physical and mental toughness to go with their talent, and there are early signs that Vinicius has this in his locker. Vinicius certainly does not lack confidence.
In an interview with Globoesporte at the end of 2017, the youngster spoke with maturity about his pending move to Real Madrid.
“I know my potential and how far I can go. I am going to work hard at Flamengo so as not to remain as a promise,” he said.
Early signs in the 2018 season have been promising. He grabbed an excellent goal against Botafogo and his cocky celebration which painted the opposition as cry-babies caused a stir. This was another demonstration of his growing confidence.
Also promising is his run of three league starts in a row, completing 90 minutes in all of them (the consecutive starts totalling five if the Copa del Rey is included). If handled carefully Vinicius could already be an important player as the crunch stage of the season draws close.
His weaknesses at present are clear for all to see. He regularly holds onto the ball for too long, trying one trick too many. Also, in an attempt to make an instant impression, he will sometimes try the most difficult pass when a simpler ball will do. His passing accuracy of 70.7 per cent was well below the average of his side last season.
An improvement in his decision making will surely come with experience and quality coaching, for he possesses plenty of raw talent.
His mental fortitude is also impressive as he rarely appears intimidated by the physical nature of the Brazilian league.
At such a young age he may face challenges and temptations off the field that disrupt his progression on it, so the experience of compatriots Marcelo and Casemiro will be crucial to his development and transition over the next couple of years.
It is still too soon to confidently predict which way Vinicius’ career is heading, however, if he is given more time on the pitch this year, his courage on the ball could be of great benefit to Real Madrid.