Is Vinicius Jr. the one to assume the goalscoring mantle for Real Madrid?
The story of Vinicius Junior's meteoric rise is a testament to the youngster's caliber and potential. No wonder the teenage sensation is enjoying all the attention throughout Europe as he continues to drive a team, who were enduring a horrific season considering their standards, with his quick feet and hunger.
Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior, more commonly known as Vinicius Jr, was the kid everyone talked about at school, academy and his boyhood club. He was the relentless kid who would train with players of all age groups, would never tire out and dazzle opponents with his pace and trickery.
He was just 10 years old when he joined Flamengo and went on improving leaps and bounds wherever he went. His displays of breathtaking skill and technique combined with his majestic and driven poise on the ball attracted the coaches from the first day. Initially, Vinicius Jr.'s name was heard through a regional tournament where he dazzled his opponents and audience with his caliber.
Vinicius Jr. quickly caught the eye of the coaches in Flamengo's Academy. Vinicius Jr. would soon be featuring against opponents more than his age to find a match of his potential. But his major breakthrough came in Copa Sao Paulo- Brazil's most prestigious tournament- where Vinicius Jr. really made the world sit up and take notice. At just 16 years old, Vinicius Jr. dominated his opponents who were 2-3 years older than him.
Despite all his talents, there is no doubt that Vinicius Jr. worked hard in silence to sharpen his mind and skills. Talent needs hard work to make the noise and Vinicius Jr. did just that. He became the star of the ‘Generation 2000’ – the team made up of players born at the turn of the millennium- whose unbeaten run went on for 3 years.
Real Madrid were quick to act and signed a deal to secure the services of the Brazilian wonder kid. Although Los Blancos' fans were concerned about the staggering fee paid, Vinicius Jr. price will look like a bargain if he continues his phenomenal growth.
Vinicius Jr.'s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu came at the times of turmoil as Real Madrid are enduring a below-par season by their lofty standards after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Vinicius Jr. rarely got the chance to prove himself under former Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui but things quickly changed when Santiago Solari trusted the youngster with more minutes on the pitch.
In a short time, Vinicius Jr. has become one of the standout players in the current season. Where most Real Madrid forwards seemed clueless in the attacking third, Vinicius Jr.'s habit of breaking down the barriers with his trickery and pace has been instrumental. His continuous movements in the opponent's third has been a cause of concern for his rivals and has helped him quickly became a crowd favourite.
With the departure of irreplaceable Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale was touted to fill in the shoes of Real Madrid's former talisman. Bogged down by repetitive injuries, Bale has failed to step up so far in this season which paved the way for Vinicius Jr. His statistics may not be near the likes of Kylian Mbappe but he is Real Madrid's best bet to lead the attack in near future.
Vinicius Jr. is still far from perfect, he is still unproven at big stages, his decision-making skills are poor and he focuses more on trickery rather than the end product. Moreover, he is still a raw young talent who needs guidance to fulfil his true potential. Obviously, he needs to be left in peace and away from the hype but the way Vinicius Jr. has stepped up this season is truly remarkable.
It still remains to be seen how Vinicius Jr. performs against relatively tougher opponents but there is no doubt that he will be a superstar if he continues his improvement. With time on his side, it will be hard to bet against the teenage boy who is showing all the right pointers towards massive success in the future.