Real Madrid must make a statement to stop opponents harshly targeting Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

There were many things frustrating about Real Madrid‘s 0-0 draw with Villarreal on Saturday. Los Blancos suffered a slow start in the first half, they missed copious good chances in the second, and they dropped more points in LaLiga during a title race with Sevilla that is closer than it really should be.

However, for many Madridistas, nothing was more frustrating than watching how star man Vinicius Jr., leading the attack with Karim Benzema out injured, was violently targeted by Villarreal players at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

It seemed like every time he had the ball, the Yellow Submarine were hacking at his ankles and grabbing him, doing everything they could to get Vinicius to the ground. They wanted to send a message to him that he would not leave unscathed if he dribbled one-on-one, and as this league’s tagline says, what we witnessed was not football. It was LaLiga. A kind of brand of football that includes Jaime Mata diving onto the pitch to waste time while faking an injury or these kinds of injurious antics.

Vinicius Jr. was struck twice in the face in the penalty box. The first time was by Raul Albiol as he tried to press Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli. Albiol very clearly looked back at Vini before striking Vini in the head, removing any reasonable doubt that he did this on purpose.

Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr.
Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Vinicius Jr.’s exciting style makes him a target in LaLiga

Later in the match on a free kick, Dani Parejo committed a similar infraction, elbowing Vini in the face before the kick was taken. And just like Albiol, this LaLiga veteran was not punished.

In total, the Brazilian forward was fouled five times, whether by Juan Foyth or someone else. At least Foyth was honestly defending Vini for much of the game. His teammates, especially Albiol, resorted to cheap tactics instead of actually defending.

This is not the first time we have seen this happen to Vinicius this season. He is being targeted by opponents, who know that they do not have the skill to defend Vini. What they do know, though, is that the refs, especially if they are the home team as Villarreal were, are too afraid to give bookings. This seems to be a major issue in LaLiga, going beyond Real Madrid. A lot of teams are committing harsh fouls, hurting players, and rendering matches unwatchable, taking away the skill and technique of the league.

The Bundesliga and Premier League do not have these kinds of issues. Neither does Serie A. Even Ligue 1 referees do not let this many plays slide, especially not without consulting VAR to confirm an elbow. I can remember a match earlier this season between Atletico Madrid and Sevilla that featured some of the most grotesque tackles I have seen in a marquee matchup between top teams, simply because the ref refused to give cards early, escalating the game into a battle of who could get away with the cruelest challenges.

Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr.
Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images) /

Opponents know they can get away with targeting Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid have seen LaLiga fail to protect Vinicius Jr. throughout the season, and that gives teams the green light to continue to seek blood. They know they will not be punished, so they have every incentive to unfairly bring down a star player, slowing him down and Madrid while frustrating him. And because he gets so few calls, he tries to compensate by rolling around, drawing Neymar comparisons. (Ever wonder why Neymar was forced to do the same?) Again, that’s not good for Vini, for the watchability of the game, or for LaLiga’s rep.

On a more serious note, we saw earlier this season how the whistles from the opposing crowd turned into something more when Barcelona fans racially abused Vinicius Jr., marring the biggest showcase game in club football. Was Barcelona punished? No, LaLiga – the same league which gaslit another victim of racism last season, Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby, by saying they found no evidence of abuse when literally everyone could here the racist slur/phrase without fans – simply released an empty statement condemning racism. They condemned it, but they did nothing to stop it. And who knows what racism that goes unreported Black players have to deal with due to this lack of protection? We cannot forget this important issue as it relates to Vini, because there has been an incident we know about this season already.

Yes, it does make me wonder if the reason why LaLiga fails to take Vini’s protection seriously is because they simply value his health less and value him less as a human being. It is indeed awful that I have to wonder this, but I cannot help but be honest every time I see Vini brought down, elbowed in the face, booed mercilessly by opposing fans, and left frustrated to explain to the ref what happened.

Real Madrid are a powerful club in Spain and have an important player to them sporting-wise, marketing-wise, and, most importantly, in terms of his meaning to the fans and club. Vini is someone who loves Madrid and does whatever he can to win, leaving it all on the pitch. And that leaves him susceptible to injury as he continues to fight hard in the face of these vicious fouls.

Football fans don’t take LaLiga’s governance seriously

Florentino Perez and Madrid will have to take matters into their own hands at some point. I see Carlo Ancelotti saying things like Vinicius can’t let things bother him, but what human being could deal with this? It is his right to be angry, and because this has happened game after game, month after month, there comes a point where he can no longer take things in stride.

Where does Vinicius Jr. rank among the best players left in the Champions League?. dark. Next

LaLiga is a tough league to take seriously. They don’t care about important issues in their game, the marketing of their league, or the health of their players. I’m not sure what they care about, other than the broadcasters and some fabricated war on piracy. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two marquee destinations for star players in their leagues, and one of their stars is being slowly cut down by opponents without any consequences. Perez and the club must come to Vini’s defense and at least make it clear to him that they have his back.