Real Madrid cannot underestimate the importance of resting Vinicius Jr.

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

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has come under fire recently for a number of reasons, but the most salient arguments criticizing the legendary coach center around an issue that was prevalent during his first stint with the club.

Ancelotti’s reliance on the starting XI and lack of rotations has been a dangerous game, and while the starters may have helped lift Real to first in LaLiga, fatigue is clearly starting to catch up to the team. Real Madrid looked sluggish in losses to Athletic Bilbao and PSG, as well as in a 0-0 draw with Villarreal.

It has been more than a month since this team has produced a truly complete performance, and both Karim Benzema and Ferland Mendy have picked up injuries. Meanwhile, the midfield has been up-and-down due to fatigue, with the mileage now starting to hit Luka Modric hard.

The lack of rotations in midfield have understandably been the focus, with Modric and Kroos needing to be preserved and the likes of Fede Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, and Antonio Blanco in need of more minutes.

Real Madrid, Vinícius Júnior
Real Madrid, Vinícius Júnior (Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid need to protect Vinicius Jr.’s health over the long term

However, Real Madrid cannot forget that Vinicius Jr., as superhuman as he seems to be at times, needs rest. It seems as if Ancelotti has been rather nonchalant with how much punishment Vini can take and how rest is important to the player.

Vinicius is young and dynamic, so there is an inclination to keep playing him as much as possible. We saw how Ancelotti risked him shortly after he already played for the Brazil national team, and the results were predictably not great.

Ancelotti needs to remember that because Vinicius’ game is based on winning one-on-ones, taking tough fouls from defenses, and carrying the ball up the flank, he is going to be prone to fatigue. He needs to be at his best in order to play at a high level. And we know how passionate he is. We know he will always go 100 percent in every match, including defensively.

That makes it all the more important for Real Madrid to protect him and his health over the course of the season – and his career. It is tempting to play Vinicius Jr. as often as possible, but that may not be the best bet. Vini can recover quicker than most players due to his age, but what are the additive costs of asking an explosive winger to give 100 percent twice per week? Remember, Vinicius already has one serious injury in his career. He is human like everyone else – a fragile collection of muscles, ligaments, and joints that is left vulnerable by the ghoulish scheduling of football’s governing bodies.

Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior
Real Madrid, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Vinicius Jr.’s role is a very taxing one

Vinicius Jr. is one of Real Madrid’s most important players. There is no doubt about that. But his importance should make rest an even bigger priority, rather than playing him in every single game possible. Yes, he should play in most games and does not need to be treated with kid gloves, but Real must be proactive and must not overestimate the toll that the position and his playing style take. Again, need I remind you of how defenses have approached Vinicius lately?

So far this season, Vinicius has played 1,777 minutes in LaLiga. Only three Real Madrid players have logged more minutes in the league: David Alaba, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois. Center backs and a goalkeeper. Not that any position on the football pitch is easy, but these players do not have to run as much as Vinicius or make as many taxing plays physically in terms of one-on-ones. After all, we are talking about the player with the most dribbles completed per game (3.0) and fouls drawn per game (2.5) among the regulars in the lineup and rotation. It’s not even close.

Those numbers further underscore how vital it is for Real Madrid to be the ones to offer Vini protection in the form of regulated rest. And yes, of course Vini is the best option on the wings, but Eden Hazard and Rodrygo Goes are capable options on the left wing. There has been a significant drop-off between Vinicius and these two in most games this season, but it can be counter-argued that Hazard and Rodrygo would be better with more chances.

Even if it means giving Vinicius an early night off or using him as a bench option for the final 30 minutes if necessary, rest can make all the difference. Vinicius Jr. scored twice against Valencia, but that’s the only time he has scored in his last seven matches between LaLiga and the Champions League. You cannot tell me that he would not benefit from more rest, especially as a goal-scorer in creating his own chances.

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Real Madrid have made the mistake of thinking too short-term under Ancelotti this season, and it is starting to catch up to them. Let this be a warning sign that if they take Vini’s health for granted, they will eventually live to regret it painfully.