Scout Report: Vinicius Jr, Real Madrid's exciting new acquisition from Brazil
Vinicius Jr. is yet another young Brazilian talent who sports a smile that oozes youthful exuberance. Yet to even part ways with the braces on his teeth, the starlet was already involved in a prolific transfer deal. But who exactly is Vinícius Júnior? Well, he is a mystery to many. The boy from Brazil is being heralded as the next big superstar to come out of the great South American nation. We find out what’s so special about this 17-year-old that made the 12-time Champions League Winners splurge £38m for his services.
He is going to play for Brazil in the U-17 FIFA World Cup 2017, for which India is the host nation.
The football world was thrown into chaos, back in May, when the whites of Madrid agreed on a deal to sign Vinicius. Not only was his fee ridiculous, the teenager was also more or less an unproven quality. He had a measly 17 minutes of first-team football under his belt at Flamengo. Worse, he had garnered zero goals and assists for the club.
Yet, the Spanish giants went ahead to splash the cash on the promising forward. Barely a week before, Vinicius extended his contract with the Rio club until 2022. Now, he is set to join an elite club of Brazilians to don the Los Blancos’ white. The La Liga champions will officially sign the teen sensation from July 2018 when he clocks 18. But for the time being, he will remain at Flamengo.
Vinicius’ story is a common one for Brazilian footballers. Born into abject poverty, he was spotted playing on the street of Sao Goncalo, a city just outside Rio de Janeiro. He was singled out as a potential superstar aged just five, signed by Flamengo at the age of 10 and made his Under-15s debut just three years later.
But it was in the national fold that Vinicius actually did burst into the spotlight. In 2015, the young forward scored six goals to help Brazil win the South American U15 Championship. Since that tournament in Colombia, Vinicius has grown from strength to strength. He returned to Flamengo and hasn’t slowed down since.
He opened the scoring in the Classico against Botafogo during the Rio de Janeiro junior Cup in October last year. Earlier this year, he enhanced his reputation further with seven goals as Brazil won the South American U17 competition for a record 12th time. Vinicius was named the championship’s best player and is expected to shine at the U17 World Cup in October.
Despite his growing status in his country, Vinicius wasn’t able to force his way into Flamengo first team. However, that opportunity finally came as a substitute against Atletico Mineiro at the Maracana. While there was fanfare around his introduction, he did little to catch the eye in his eight minutes on the pitch. After his debut, he had to wait for almost three months before scoring his first professional goal. He notched his sides fifth against Palestino – 30 seconds after being substituted into the game. His second came nine days later in the 2–0 win over Atlético Goianiense.
Anything special about the lad?
Vinicius Junior produces that odd slippery turn and plays with coltish, slightly clumsy vigour. Yes, he is quick, skilful and able to go past players – with a predatory eye for goal. But that’s almost a common trait among footballers his age these days. Add to that the fact that he lacks defensive strength, is a party freak and known as a showboater, then you’d agree that Madrid may have gotten this one wrong.
But all the showmanship is well backed up by his performances on the pitch.
Style of play
Similar to Marco Asensio, Vinícius Júnior possesses a change of pace that bamboozles defenders, leaving players in his wake. In the final third, this is especially devastating, as the ability to quickly change direction drew countless fouls.
Vinícius’ versatility was another thing that stuck out. The wonder-kid can play on both wings, having the size to terrorize fullbacks, and the pace to terrorize central defenders. But Brazil’s under-17 manager gave him much more freedom than that, allowing Vinícius to roam in a second striker role. The result was a terrorized backline guarded by a midfield that simply could not keep up with his pace. But while Vinícius Júnior can play effectively as a second striker, he made passes that reminded one of a true number 10 rather than a winger or striker. He is more than capable of playing long diagonal passes, switching play, as well darting deadly vertical balls over the top of the defence to fellow strike partners.
Like all great Brazilian attackers, Vinícius Júnior has a rather audacious side, especially when attempting to beat a goalkeeper. Difficult finishes that include controlling a through ball before shooting in between a keeper’s legs, or converting absurdly difficult chips.
Vinícius uses his body and physique exceptionally. Although not particularly tall at 5 feet 10 inches, Vinícius uses his balance and low, but deceptively strong centre of gravity to keep possession. Not only is his body used well in offence, it is used in defence as well. Whenever Vinícius or another teammate loses the ball, the defensive work-rate is immediately evident. A willingness to defend the flanks as well as an eagerness to press high are traits that you rarely find in young attackers.
Is he worth the price and hype?
How do you improve a squad that already has everything? It’s easy, just invest in more young talent to keep the good times rolling. Risky? Absolutely. But the potential reward is worth so much more than the potential risk.
It is important to remember that this player is only 16 years old. He will need years before he is first-team ready, but will the notoriously impatient Madridistas be willing to wait? Gabriel Jesus did not move to Europe until he was 19, while Neymar did not go until he was 21. Madrid fans have no choice but to be patient with him and trust the club’s management that has already assembled an astounding amount of young talent within the squad. Having this level of pressure placed on one’s shoulders at such a young age must be beyond difficult, and adding to that pressure will not help Vinícius Júnior’s development in the slightest.
I have very high expectations after watching Vinícius Júnior’s matches. He has all the tools to be a superstar but must make sure to keep his head on his shoulders and remain diligent with his development.