Brazilian youngster, Vinicius Junior is being heralded as the next big superstar to come out of his country. We find out what’s so special about this 17-year-old that made Real Madrid splurge £38m for his services.
The football world was thrown into chaos, back in May, when Real 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 notched 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 side’s 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?
Not exactly. 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 that he lacks defensive strength, he’s a party freak and known as a showboater, then you’d agree that Madrid may have gotten this one wrong.