Real Madrid left winger Vinicius Jr. scored 17 goals with 10 assists in the 2021/22 LaLiga season. Literally, the only more prolific player in his own league was teammate Karim Benzema, who found the back of the net 27 times and added 10 assists. If you look at WhoScored rating, for example, they were rightfully 1 and 2 in the league.
Yet according to The Athletic, Vinicius Jr. is not the best young player in LaLiga. No, no, apparently that distinction goes to Gavi of Barcelona.
Unlike some other Madridistas, I am not going to tell you biased lies. (That is a job for the mainstream media who asks for paid subscriptions for their genius takes.) Gavi is a very talented player. At 17, he has all the tools to be a world-class midfielder and is already a starter for Barcelona. He had two goals and five assists, and while he needs to become more disciplined defensively, the teenager is indeed sensational in how he contributes to the attack.
But there is no way on earth you can compare his body of work to Vinicius’. This award isn’t for LaLiga’s best literal child. So while I can appreciate Gavi’s quality, especially in the context of him being 17, I cannot fathom how anyone would put him over Vini Jr., who literally had a rare 20-goal, 20-assist season in all competitions.
Vinicius Jr. certainly qualifies as a young player at 21 years old
Vinicius Jr. is one of the best players in the world. He beats Gavi in every single attacking metric, including key passes, dribbles completed, and fouls drawn. There is no universe in which Gavi is a better player than the Real Madrid star.
If you want to argue age is the reason, then that’s a load of nonsense as well. The Athletic named Freiburg – and future Dortmund – center back Nico Schlotterbeck as the Bundesliga’s best young player. That was indeed the right decision. But here’s the thing, Schlotterbeck is 22. (Also, he’s not as good as Vini either, but that’s beside the point here.)
So if The Athletic considers Schlotterbeck young – which they should, because 22 IS young – then Vinicius Jr. has to be considered young by the outlet at 21. You have to be consistent, especially if you do not have clear rules laid out for who qualifies as a “young player”.
By any sensible definition, a 21-year-old is a “young player”. I know Kylian Mbappe spoiled a lot of us, but a 21-year-old contributing 27 goals in a LaLiga season to Real Madrid is a special feat.
And spare me the, “Oh, he’s been there for years.” This is his breakout season. Those years were him developing and learning on the job, which, as you could see from the criticism he received, was not easy.
Vinicius Jr. fought hard through those tough years and is now a superstar. To say that he is not the best young player in LaLiga is dishonest. It either shows incompetence, bias, or a fundamental inability to grasp simple arithmetic.
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Real Madrid fans and players deserve better from mainstream outlets, who continue to disrespect the actual champions of LaLiga and the Champions League finalists who had to beat three of Europe’s best – and most financially unethical – clubs to get there. And a big reason why they achieved all this? Vini freaking Jr.!