On 23rd May 2017, Real Madrid signed a 16-year-old Brazilian for a whopping €45million. Unknown and unheard until then, Vinicius Jr. was to join the club only after turning 18-years-old as per the International Player Transfer rules. On 14th July 2018, just two days after turning 18, Vinicius flew from Brazil to complete the remaining contractual obligations. After his medical, he was finally officially presented as a Real Madrid player.
In the summer, several reports surfaced regarding Real Madrid and Barcelona scouts closely reviewing a few Brazilian players. But as for their names, they were kept under wraps. Vinicius readily agreed to join Real when they approached him. Despite the fact that Real Madrid were the first ones to enquire for his services, Cristiano Ronaldo, whom he had sincerely idolised, was another driving factor that landed Vinicius in the Madrid capital.
Real Madrid has always been a home to Brazilian talents. With the likes of legends like Didi, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo de Lima, Robinho, Kaka and Marcelo, Vinicius too is eager to prove himself worthy and more of his ‘€45million’ tag and attest that he was not just a product of the inflated transfer market.
So here’s why Julen Lopetegui should consider giving him a shot at the first team:
Pre-season matches – The Debut
Vinicius debuted in the heavyweight summer clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United. The Red Devils’ had their own Brazilian summer signing Fred debuting too. However, Vinicius clearly stole the limelight even though Real lost that match.
The 18-year-old winger was a nightmare for Manchester United’s defence as he continuously tormented them. Both Matteo Darmian and Fosu Mensah were just not able to handle him and succumbed to the pressure of him speeding at them repeatedly. He banged in crosses, made the inside runs, showed clarity, confidence and the hunger for the ball while displaying almost a perfect debut, falling short of just a goal to his name. Noticeably, he won the heart of all the Madrid fans, who’d already starting chanting his name in stands and many started comparing him to the likes of Cristiano as well.
Style of play – The Ginga
The Ginga is the traditional form of football played in the roots of Brazil. It’s a combination of Joga Bonito, Samba and art of Capoeira that are defined by rhythm and dance as a way of moving with the ball and deceiving an opponent. Vinicius, coming from the town of Sao Goncalo in Rio de Janiero, is gifted with the pace, the tricks and the vision replicating all the virtues of the Ginga style of play. He loves to wait to receive the ball and then run around with it, cutting vertically through the field whilst dribbling past the opposition. With an opportunity to counter-attack, he would burst into lightning speed, even leaving behind those who were in front of him.
The Castilla Masterclass
It came as a shock to a lot of people when it was announced that Vinicius would be playing primarily for the Castilla team, rather than the first team. Lopetegui took this decision to make Vinicius aware of the Spanish style of playing and adapting to the cultures of the club. The club has made sure that the player feels comfortable away from home but they have banned him from giving press conferences. This is solely with regards to reducing the pressure on the youngster. He also has helpers assisting his adaption to Madrid and they help him with his bills and taxes since Madrid want him exclusively focused on football and want him to keep progressing.
In just four matches, Vinicius has already scored three goals and assisted once, and it looks like he’s adapting well to the Spanish style. Unfortunately, his discipline on the field is a worrying factor. Collecting three cards consecutively, just one of them has been because of a wrong tackle. The yellow card against Athletico was for getting into a tiff with Tachi who bit him on his head and the third card comes for lashing out at the referee for a decision that went against Vinicius.
Adaptability of a ‘Second Striker’
A second striker is a player who plays as a link between the wingers, midfielders and the striker. Vinicius, who uses his pace by the lines as a left winger, doubles up as a second striker when required. His preferred right foot allows him to cut across at the back and either provide the ball to the striker or to change sides and pass over to the right winger.
This adaptability may prove helpful for the managers during a change of tactics. In case the team needs to get control in the midfield, the team can change from the classic 4-4-2 to the modern 4-3-3. So, instead of exhausting a substitution, Vinicius can move up as the second striker and the centre-back can fall behind between the midfielders and the defenders to take up the defensive midfield position.
Here are two excerpts from the Castilla match that show how Vinicius can double up as a second striker.
Vinicius receives the ball a bit too far from him. Here, he has two options: Either to cross the ball inside or keep possession and look out for more options. He chooses the latter.
There are three players to his left and one ahead of him. He chooses to move right across giving himself a bit of space. He can either pass the ball behind him or cross it. Rather, he maintains possession.
Still maintaining the possession, Vinicius uses his pace to create some more space giving him an angle at the goal with his preferred foot but he decides to pass the ball to the striker thus by completing a perfect play.
In ample space near the byline, Vinicius receives the ball. He can either use his pace and then wait for his teammates to reach the box and then cross or run in-between the lines, confusing his opponents as to from which side he would attack. Meanwhile, support arrives for him.
As seen in the picture, Vinicius has support on either sides. Since he had been playing on the left during the entire game, he decides to go right.
Vinicius waits for his teammate to get into a good space. He passes the ball to him and jolts inside the penalty box for the return ball.
But unfortunately for him, the return ball is too fast, giving the Leonesa keeper enough time to come ahead and collect the ball.
Vinicius needs to have enough time on the larger field. The 18-year-old has shown great potential and the right desire for an opportunity to prove himself. He dances around the ball like Ronaldinho, has a great skill set like Marcelo and has a strong right foot like Kaka and Roberto Carlos.
Lopetegui must definitely consider using Vinicius. As he keeps improving, he needs to get exposure in the first team. In Isco’s absence, there is a chance that the coach might use his services, especially after last night’s disaster against Sevilla. Such high-intensity games require players with great pace and composure. Yes, he lacks experience, but it’s always good to make sure that you have a very reliable option off the bench.