Vinicius Junior or Rodrygo Goes? The debate is skewed by playing time

Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images) /

Rodrygo Goes or Vinicius Junior? The discussion was almost inevitable. Two supremely gifted young wingers from the same country, plying their trade at Real Madrid. Both are good enough to start matches for Los Blancos, but not quite yet at the level needed to be true stars for the La Liga giants. And thus, we have ourselves a little bit of a back-and-forth debate on social media.

Do we need to compare two young players and pit them against each other? No. It is fun for fans to discuss, but sometimes the fun stops when fans, in their zeal to prove themselves right or even further an insidious agenda, overstep into unwarranted criticism.

And what makes this specific debate so interesting is the flip-flopping. Last season, Rodrygo Goes was the darling, viewed as the more polished player over Vinicius. Then Vini scored against Barcelona in El Clasico. But then this season, he fell out of form. So fans switched back to Rodrygo. But then Rodrygo got injured and Vini found his form. And scored twice against Liverpool. So now Vinicius is back on top.

Thus, we see opinion see-saw, fickle as it ever is. From one promising prospect to another, a few fans have switched their allegiances, while others have shifted their chosen praise from a scream to a mere whisper, depending on the overall mood.

Young players like Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes will look better when they get more chances on the pitch

What’s funny is that we get nowhere. The same talking points are raised, either more loudly or more quietly depending on the most recent outcomes. And once you take a look below the surface and beyond the buzzwords like “upside” and “consistency”, you see that the debate all boils down to one simple factor. Playing time.

More from The Real Champs

Is it any surprise that a young player – or really, any player – getting consecutive minutes will do better? They will have more consistency in playing time to be consistent on the pitch. They will have more confidence from their manager that will manifest in their production on the pitch. And they will have more chances to stand out in the minds of fans, whose opinions are shouted into the void on the Twitter machine.

Rodrygo was used frequently in last year’s Champions League group stages, even scoring a perfect hat-trick against Galatasaray. So at the time, he was better than Vinicius. Then Vini was vital in the second half of the league campaign. After barely playing in the early winter, he started more frequently, making key plays in El Clasico and El Derbi.

This season, Rodrygo earned four starts from late November to December, impressing on the left wing in two of those starts against Eibar and Granada before an injury in the latter match. So at that time, more fans were behind him, while Vini struggled to score.

Now, however, it is Rodrygo who is struggling a bit since returning from injury in March, while Vini has started in nearly 10 matches since the start of February. Therefore, Vini, who was great in the first leg against Liverpool and in El Clasico, is now viewed as better.

dark. Next. The best Real Madrid player to wear every kit number

There is no “better”. There is only “different”. Rodrygo and Vinicius are completely different wingers with different skill-sets, who are both equally useful to Real Madrid and equally capable of developing into great players. It is important to appreciate both, to remember that they are still growing, and to understand that instead of overreacting each month or comparing we can instead acknowledge that there will be ebbs and flows. And most of those ebbs and flows go hand-in-hand with the time we actually get to see them on the pitch.