Vinicius Jr. has surpassed Neymar as Brazil’s star man

Brazil, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)
Brazil, Vinicius Jr. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images) /

The 2021/22 season has been a special one for Real Madrid left winger Vinicius Jr. Coming into the season, it was unclear if Vini would even be a weekly starter for Los Blancos. Now, he is very much a vital player to Carlo Ancelotti, who effectively built his entire attacking scheme and playing style around the ball-carrying and attacking threat possessed by the young forward.

He has been THE breakout star in European football this season. Vini Jr. is the second-best player in LaLiga, with only teammate Karim Benzema ahead of him. He has won matches for Real Madrid all on his own this season, against opponents varying from Elche to Sevilla to Mallorca. In the face of racism and brutal fouls, Vini has stood tall.

And now, it is time to consider that he is not just one of the stars for Real Madrid. As we prepare for this year’s World Cup, Vinicius Jr. is shaping up to be THE star man for Brazil, taking that mantle from a generational talent in Neymar.

There are people who like to hate on Neymar or even disrespect what he has done for the national team. I am not one of them. He was incredible in the last Copa America and was decisive for Brazil in the last two World Cups, even if a lot of people do not want to respect him for that.

Vinicius Jr.’s numbers are on a different level this season

So in saying that Vinicius has surpassed Neymar, I do not mean to disrespect the Brazilian 10. Unfortunately, yes, there is the reality that he is declining, though it must also be added that his play for Brazil is at a higher level than at PSG. (Perhaps some of this is due to the dysfunction within the club that is eating away at Neymar’s footballing spirit.)

But the main reason for this statement is an acknowledgment of Vinicius’ brilliance. He hasn’t just been better and more consistent than Neymar this season. He has been better than nearly any full-time left winger in football.

Look at the numbers. Vinicius Jr. has always been a prolific dribbler who can start attacks by carrying the ball great distances, and his work rate and defending have also never been in question. Prior to 2021/22, the one thing keeping Vini from true stardom was his finishing.

This season, the 21-year-old has a whopping 14 goals in LaLiga alone with an additional pair of goals in the Champions League. Combined, he has 10 assists in the Champions League and LaLiga, which represents another improvement in end product this season.

Vinicius is flying high. He has even stepped up his other attacking numbers that were already good prior to 2021/22. Vini averages 3.0 dribbles completed per game, 2.4 fouls drawn per game, and 2.1 key passes per game in LaLiga. His numbers in the Champions League currently sit at 3.1 dribbles completed per game, 3.0 key passes per game, and 1.9 fouls drawn per game.

Those are outstanding numbers. Across the board, Vinicius Jr. is performing at an elite level. Meanwhile, Neymar, now 30, has just 10 total goal contributions between Ligue 1 and the Champions League – that’s fewer than the number of goals Vini has in LaLiga alone. And Neymar is beating Vini in only one stat: fouls drawn.

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Vini can challenge his future teammate Kylian Mbappe as the best player at the next World Cup. Those are the heights he is reaching. After recently scoring his first national team goal with Brazil, you can bet many more will be coming for the new superstar in the side.