The Curious Case of Vinicius Jr.

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“You’re destined to become one of the game’s all-time greats but you’re showing that you’ve already achieved that.” Florentino Peréz did not tread with caution when Real Madrid presented new signing Vinicius Jr. at the Santiago Bernabéu this summer.

Los Blancos missed out on big names such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Harry Kane in the close season but in Vinicius Jr., the young kid from Flamengo, they welcomed a player who was tipped by many to follow in the footsteps of his aforementioned countryman, the PSG player being his idol.

Peréz confirmed he was ready, Flamengo fans knew he was ready and the 18-year-old oozes the kind of confidence you’d expect from a Brazilian who’s just moved to the biggest club on the planet for €45 million. If any doubts about that linger, just check out his Instagram account.

So why is the young starlet seemingly being limited to outings with Real Madrid Castilla? Madrid’s B team battling in the Segunda B, Spain’s third tier. Not only that, but the forward is reported to be only featuring in matches on home soil and definitely not having any involvement in matches which are being played on artificial surfaces.

Many expected the player to be involved in first-team affairs straight away, especially given Cristiano’s departure and his lack of a replacement. Mariano returned from Lyon to plug some of that gap and add some firepower, but the resulting departing of Borja Mayoral to Levante left space for a further attacking threat in the first team squad.

“Vinicius is a first-team player and we have a lot of confidence in what he can give us,” Lopetegui said in a recent press conference. Indeed, if you look o the official Real Madrid website it lists the Río-born forward amongst its first-team squad but the only action Vinicius has seen this season has been with Castilla.

And what an outing it was.

The Brazilian grabbed the headlines for various reasons. In a league matches against Atlético Madrid B he frustrated his rivals so much that opposing captain Alberto Rodriguez appeared to bite him in the head in an altercation mid-match. Not only that, he scored both goals in his side’s 2-2 derby draw.

Vinicius shone then but he also shone during the club’s summer tour of the USA. Friendlies they may be, but the former Flamengo man showed he is just as capable of wowing the crowds as Gareth Bale or Isco with some scintillating performances stateside. The excitement grew. The anticipation grew.

As the days passed, however, reports surfaced that Madrid would be listing Vinicius with Castilla, and not the first-team, sparing an appearance here and there in competitions such as the Copa del Rey. Vinicius is also listed in the squad that will participate in this season’s Champions League but it remains to be seen if he will be part of any matchday squads.

It’s understandable that the club want to ease him into life not only away from Río de Janeiro, but at the biggest club in the world with the biggest expectations. Those expectations on a personal level need to be managed. The same happened with his fellow countryman Casemiro and that did the midfield man no harm at all. The club see that if Vinicius makes the same progress then they’re on to a winner.

The former Flamengo man looks more than ready to cut it with the first team, however, and should be handed his opportunity soon. Indeed, March reported this week that he, alongside Mariano and Alvaro Odriozola, should be handed their first-team debuts soon, when Lopetegui sees the time is right.

Let’s hope that’s soon. Madrid have been winning, and scoring, with aplomb in the opening weeks of the season but the fixture list has been kind to them. With matches at San Mamés and the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán coming up in September, as well as a Champions League Group Stage opener against Roma at the Bernabéu, the tests will become harder. Step up, Vinicius Jr.

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