Can Vinicius Junior Finally Find Success at Real Madrid?

Can Vinicius Junior Finally Find Success at Real Madrid?
Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Last December Vinicius Junior said that he had asked Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane for more playing time, looking to build on his debut season.

The 19-year-old forward scored six goals in 23 games for Real Madrid Castilla and Real Madrid during the 2018-19 campaign after coming over from Flamengo. The Brazilian has just eight starts in La Liga this season, despite all the injuries to midfielders and forwards that the team has.

Zidane insisted that Vinicius Junior is an important player for Real Madrid and claimed that he will “count on” him this season and indeed in the future.

“I have 23 players and I have to count on everyone,” Zidane told Marca. “Vinicius is 18 years old and is the future of Madrid, surely. But each player takes time and he is in the process of doing things well.

Sometimes he will not play, of course, because he will play in others and will be in the starting eleven. Stop saying that I do not count on Vinicius. I do count on him.”

Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Why Vinicius Junior Has Lacked Opportunities

Vinicius Junior is one of those players that’s equally exhilarating and exasperating. He can be like that in the same game and sometimes in the same move. He can make you embrace his play and then do something that erases the good he did.

Take the first leg of the 2020 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game against Manchester City as an example. Vinicius Junior was a couple of yards away from the goal line and still missed. He then laid down with his arms and legs stretched out while the entire Santiago Bernabéu was in disbelief. Real Madrid would lose the game 2-1, so that goal he missed was crucial.

While the way he missed that goal was shocking, it should not be such a big surprise because Vinicius Junior hasn’t been much of a goalscoring machine at Real Madrid. That said, some of the criticism and the doubts around him are unfair and premature. After all, he is just 19 years old. Vinicius Junior has enough confidence to produce incredible plays but he needs to be more ruthless as a finisher. The question is, will Real Madrid have enough patience?

I remember that he slipped to his knees and cried after scoring a goal against Osasuna on September 25th because it was his first since February and he was dealing with unbearable pressure. At one point one newspaper described him as an “emporium of dribbles without scoring.”

Turning Point For His Future?

The March 1st Clásico against FC Barcelona can be a turning point for Vinicius Junior. He hadn’t scored in La Liga since the goal against Osasuna in September and he had just six starts in La Liga (zero in 2020). Zidane’s decision to start him against Manchester City was surprising and he didn’t disappoint against Barça, scoring a goal in the 2-0 win to become the youngest player to find the net in El Clásico this century.

“In the first half I had three chances to shoot and I passed,” Vinicius Junior said after the game. “Casemiro told me I had to shoot more.” “I want to make the fans happy,” he added. “I’m very pleased for him, he scored an important goal in an important moment,” Zidane said about Vinicius Junior’s performance.

El Mundo said this about Vinicius Junior: “A player who is forever tormented, teetering on the edge, on that invisible line between genius and ridicule. Judgment always hangs over him, a winger unable to make his legs and feet move in unison, but he never gives up and that is a great quality.”

Real Madrid fans love someone who never gives up, especially if they find success. Only time will tell if Vinicius Junior can do that. The talent is there he just needs to develop the mental aptitude to finish his opportunities to score.