Real Madrid left winger Vinicius Jr. took center stage on Saturday night in the Champions League Final, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal to lift Los Blancos to a record 14th title in the world’s most prestigious club competition.
The victory settles the Ballon d’Or debate, which should have already been Karim Benzema‘s regardless of the outcome of the match. But now, any shouts for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane must be laughed at swiftly.
Vini Jr.’s goal and Thibaut Courtois’ legendary performance mean that two more Real Madrid players have better cases than the Liverpool attacking duo.
And it was Vini who received the most effusive praise from one of his idols.
In an interview with TNT Sports Brazil, Neymar of PSG was asked who he thinks the best player in the world is right now, based on the last season of play.
Neymar taking Vinicius Jr. over Kylian Mbappe makes perfect sense
“Mbappé had a great season, Benzema too. Afterwards, I watched very little football this year. But from what I’ve seen, yes, Vinicius Junior.“
Although Neymar praised Mbappe effusively after PSG’s final game of the Ligue 1 season against Metz, there are rumors he could leave the club against his desires after the No. 7’s record-breaking contract renewal with the Qatari-owned club. There has been reported friction behind the scenes between Mbappe and Neymar, even going back to Mbappe being caught on camera criticizing Brazil’s No. 10.
So the relationship between Vinicius Jr. and Neymar may be stronger anyway.
Mbappe’s stats this season are more impressive than Vini’s, but Vini plays in a more difficult league. And he has more marquee moments than Kylian. In addition to game-winning goals in the Champions League Final and against Sevilla in LaLiga (they were once title contenders, let’s not forget!), Vini had the decisive assist in the quarterfinal against Chelsea.
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Benzema should be recognized as the best in the world, but Neymar going with one his teammates is understandable. And he may have picked the correct teammate in Vini, who is certainly more likable now.