Spotlight on… Vinícius Júnior
Real Madrid have always had a thing for shiny objects, and nobody knows that better than their current President, Florentino Pérez.
Since he arrived in the year 2000, Real Madrid has gone from the biggest football club in the world to the biggest football club in world history.
There is no argument anymore; four European Cups in five years speaks for itself, and nobody will tell you that quicker than Pérez himself.
What Florentino particularly likes to do is to spend money. Either side of Ramon Calderón’s brief stint as President has seen Pérez break record after record when it comes to writing cheques. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká and Luís Figo have been some of the more stellar signings of his two reigns.
Madrid’s newest shiny toy
However, there has been a recent shift in strategy at Madrid, with Los Blancos opting for a more youth-driven approach to signings. Do not be fooled, however, as it is still Florentino who has the final say, and nobody proves this more than Madrid’s newest shiny toy: Vinícuis Júnior.
Born in the same summer that Florentino Pérez took over Madrid for the first time, Vinícius’s rise to stardom and subsequent impact at the Spanish club has been Oscar nomination-worthy.
Globoesporte reported that people drew early comparisons with Robinho while Vinícius grew at Flamengo; hat tricks were routinely scored amid the street-style showboating and his friends at the academy would ask for his autograph after matches.
Across Real Madrid’s last three games, 18-year-old Vinícius Júnior took more shots, completed more dribbles and played more key passes than any of his team-mates.
• 17 shots taken
• 11 dribbles completed
• 7 key passes played
He has been their biggest threat. pic.twitter.com/uQ7stwwdq1
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) March 5, 2019
Flamengo were quick to act and, in 2017, upped his release clause to €45 million. But Florentino was quicker. Real Madrid snapped up their man but law decreed that Vinícius would remain in Brazil for another year, until his 18th birthday.
The winger arrived last summer and joined Castilla, Real Madrid’s youth team, until he was seen fit to play by then-manager Julen Lopetegui.
However, the bandy-legged speedster did not make the initial impact the public and the media expected at Valdebebas; his set-piece goals and skills flashy enough to break the internet were only seen at youth level.
Lopetegui was hesitant to select the Brazilian, opting for a more Spanish-based midfield, with Isco providing the creativity at the Santiago Bernabéu. Just two days before Halloween saw Florentino press the big red button – his second favourite hobby – and sack the manager.
Comparisons with Neymar are inevitable but not wild
The man to replace Lopetegui would be Castilla manager Santiago Solari and Vinícius smelled the blood. The winger has now started the last seven matches for Real Madrid and has appeared on the front pages of the sports dailies even more.
Comparisons with Neymar are inevitable but not wild; he currently sits at the top of the assist charts at the club.
Vinicius Junior is Real Madrid’s star man at the moment, and Los Blancos are in a good spot at home versus Ajax.
Who else should you look to this afternoon?
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) March 5, 2019
And so, Florentino has got what he wanted, he usually does. Vinícius is not only making the President smile again after Ronaldo’s departure but the rest of the white side of the city, too.
They are hoping he’s more Neymar than Robinho but, whatever happens, it will be Florentino who tells you that Madrid got it right.