Although Vinicius Jr. scored the game-winning goal in the Champions League Final for all the world to see, it still feels like the Real Madrid left winger is not getting enough credit for how good he has become. You can even find the odd person calling him a one-season wonder, as if he was not always a quality footballer.
All Vini Jr. was missing coming into the 2021/22 season was finishing. Quickly under Carlo Ancelotti after working with a sports psychologist, Vinicius Jr. found his form in front of goal and started delivering the goods for the Merengues.
The 21-year-old Brazilian forward scored 17 times in LaLiga, and he even improved his end product as a passer with 10 assists. And in the Champions League, he had 4 goals and 6 assists. Those numbers are outstanding, but they look even better when you consider he was a main ball progressor and put up those stats against elite teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, PSG, and Chelsea in the Champions League knockouts.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah had the same total goal contributions and Sadio Mane had half. Both were not as decisive in the final like Vini. And Mane had both fewer goals and a LOT less assists (just two) in his league.
Vinicius Jr. should be higher than 6th in the Ballon d’Or rankings
Vini’s stiffest competition statistically, Salah scored just one goal in the knockout stages of the Champions League – and none since the first leg of the Round of 16 against Inter Milan. Meanwhile, Vini had two goals and one more assist (three vs. two) than Salah in the vital knockout rounds.
Yet despite outperforming those two when it mattered most, you will still see outlets like Goal.com ranking the Liverpool duo ahead of Vinicius Jr. Worse yet, while Mane and Salah are in the top three behind Karim Benzema, Vini is in sixth. Even Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe, who were both far less decisive in the Champions League and were on two of the most disappointing teams in the tournament, are ranked ahead.
Despite being 21, Vinicius Jr. did so much for Real Madrid that went beyond the end product stats, and he was still one of the most impactful players in terms of his influence on the scoreline in big games. He did it all for Madrid, and his clutchness should have been made obvious against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool in the final rounds of the Champions League.
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What more did Vini Jr. need to do in order to be recognized as one of the top three players in the world this season? It seems as if the fixation on the Premier League and on the big names of the past hurt Vini, who was more than just a sidekick to Benzema. He was a superstar in his own right.