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Vinicius Junior

Flamengo to Real Madrid, €45m

Profile
Vinicius Junior – whose full name is the snappy Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior – is widely tipped to be one of the game’s future stars. Such is the excitement around Real Madrid’s new recruit, in fact, that comparisons are already being made with Neymar.

Still only 18, he began in the youth set-up of Brazilian club Flamengo, initially within its futsal academy. Despite initially failing the selection process for the youth academy, he returned a year later, choosing football over futsal. The decision proved wise, as he tore through the youth system at Flamengo. As soon as he hit his 16th birthday, and having already represented Brazil at both Under-15 and Under-17 level, he was offered his first professional contract at Flamengo. It included a staggering €30m buyout clause.

Immediately after making his professional debut in a 1-1 draw against Atletico Mineiro, Vinicius’ contract was extended, with the buyout clause rising to €45m as rumours grew of interest from both Real Madrid and Barcelona. It took less than two weeks before an agreement was reached with Real for the young attacker’s signature, with a move confirmed for when he turned 18 this summer.

Despite his meteoric rise, Vinicius has yet to play for the senior Brazilian side, or even the Under-20 team. It is highly anticipated that he will be included in senior squads sooner rather than later, however, particularly if he settles in well at his new club.

Tactical analysis
Vinicius’ very first touch at the Santiago Bernabeu for his new club gave evidence of his abilities in possession. A deft flick away from his marker (above) gave a glimpse of what the young Brazilian offers with the ball at his feet – both flair and flamboyance, a desire to be entertaining as well as effective.

The 18-year-old excels with the ball at his feet, especially when the defensive pressure is behind him. His receiving pattern as a wide player is often with his back facing the opposition goal – and not, as with most wingers, with an open body shape. This often acts a pressing trigger for full-backs to aggressively close down and apply extra pressure as their opponent receives, but Vinicius can use this to his advantage by turning or rolling his marker in an instant. His trickery up against a tight marker in wide areas is reminiscent of the kind of play we have seen from Alexis Sanchez in recent seasons.

Vinicius also offers a variety of tricks and skills when attacking in one-on-one situations. Young and unpredictable, he rarely repeats skills against the same opponent, meaning he has complete attacking flexibility. That said, on the evidence of his early career to date he does enjoy a nutmeg (below).

His preference to receive in extremely wide positions can limit his options, however. Should the pass be inaccurate, then he will have trouble beating his man in the channels – and the lack of space puts added pressure on a first touch that isn’t always totally reliable (below). Finally, his goal return isn’t particularly spectacular yet, but you would expect this aspect of his game to improve markedly over time – particularly with his new teammates at Real creating a typically high number of chances.

Role at new club
With the departure of the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, the left side of attack for Real is open for business for the first time in almost a decade. This is Vinicius’ most effective position (below), and the area in which he has the most first-team experience. Should new head coach Julen Lopetegui maintain his preferred 4-3-3 structure, then the left-wing role would be ideal for Vinicius. However, with Isco, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro all likely starters, Vinicius would be competing with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema for a spot in the starting XI.

With some doubt over the future of Modric, however, Lopetegui could convert into a 4-2-3-1 structure. Isco could move into the central role behind the striker, with Bale on the right and Benzema as main striker. From here, Vinicius would be competing with the likes of Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez for a place on the left.

Regardless of departures or formations, the 18-year-old will likely spend the season competing for minutes with Asensio, Vazquez, Dani Ceballos and Borja Mayoral. He begins his career at the Bernabeu by no means a certain starter, but his potential is limitless – only time will tell if he can fight his way in this season, or whether the excited Madrid faithful (and the rest of us) will need to exercise a little more patience.

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