Based on what we’ve seen from the previous three seasons, if someone told me that Real Madrid youngster Vinicius Jr. would be the most explosive and sought-after left winger in the world this season, I would have been surprised.
We always knew what Vinicius was capable of. It was just showing up in those decisive moments, consistency, and the confidence gained from experiences that he lacked. I remember watching the first leg quarterfinal vs. Ajax in 2019 and going “this kid is incredible” when he took Matthijs de Ligt and Daley Blind with him to provide the assist for Karim Benzema’s first goal. PSG came for him in 2019 (before they came for him in 2022) with their truck of money, but Real Madrid backed him, and they’ve reaped their reward for their belief in the Brazilian.
Vinicius Jr. has excelled at keeping defenses on their toes- he came up against some of the best right backs in the world this Champions League campaign- the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James, Achraf Hakimi, etc. giving him plenty of experience and confidence. Defenses struggled to read him and his next moves, and his runs were too pacy for defenders to catch up.
He may have some shaky moments in games, but that one moment of decisiveness is enough to outdo them all and place his stamp on the game. We saw that nutmeg Vinicius Jr. did against Fernandinho, where he ran from just beyond the halfway line to score at Ederson’s far post.
Vini’s dribbling is a huge asset- he’s developed a wider range of skills and isn’t scared to take on the best and the biggest defenders. Taking on Ibrahima Konate, Thiago Silva, etc. is no ordinary feat for a 21-year-old. Against Liverpool for example, we saw several instances where both Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold had to defend against him.
But, the thing that really stood out for me was his exceptional crossing ability. He played pinpoint crosses to Karim Benzema in both legs of the Chelsea game. The cross in the first leg of the Chelsea game made it seem like he’d been doing this for years.
Vinicius Jr. can become an even better playmaker for Real Madrid
One area where he could improve to become much more well-rounded is traditional playmaking. Now, Vinicius Jr. is currently a winger and is thriving in the LW role. He creates chances, and even tracks back to defend, which is every coach’s delight.
But, Vinicius could be more involved in the attack by helping start crucial phases of the attack himself, taking more of a playmaker’s role and receiving balls in spread, dangerous areas from attacking midfielders, instead of just concentrating solely on his position in the wings. Even his idol, Neymar was more of a winger at Barcelona, and later took the role of a playmaker at PSG.
Vinicius has been mainly creating attacks from the wings at Madrid, but as a playmaker, he can evolve into a player that can dribble and assist from the CAM + winger areas on the field. He won’t be confined as much. He will have an additional unpredictable element to his game and can disrupt defenses, instead of opponents getting ready to face him on the wings.
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It’s pretty understandable that Vini has just had his breakthrough season and is thriving on success, but the opportunity of controlling the flow of your team’s offensive play is massive. With Vini’s creativity, passing, and dribbling, he has everything that it takes to be the big link between midfield and attack and get involved in more passing moves that result in goals. We have seen several beautiful passes, and one-twos played with Karim Benzema, but it’s time for Vinicius to be more involved and link up the same way with the midfield as well. Pretty soon, we can witness Vinicius Jr. start more attacks himself, and increase his assist count.