If one were to choose Real Madrid’s most influential players from last season, Vinicius Jr would be very high on the list. The youngster took Europe by storm, scoring goals for fun across all competitions.
In 35 league appearances last season, he found the back of the net 17 times and provided ten assists. In addition, he scored four goals and recorded six assists in the UCL including the winning goal in the finals.
Earlier this week, the forward gave an interview to Que Papinho in which he talked about several topics ranging from his goal against Liverpool to his relationship with other players in the dressing room.
The Brazilian protege first opened up about his ‘best friend’ in football, Lucas Paqueta and described their special bond.
“Me and Paqueta always meet. He was in the stadium in the match against City to see me. He will forever be my best friend in football.”
Ironically, he then revealed that he did not like giving interviews and that he usually found questions repetitive.
“I don’t really like to give interviews, I find it boring, they always ask the same questions.”
Vinicius’s goal against Liverpool secured Los Blancos’ record 14th Champions League title. The youngster described the overwhelming moment and said that it was the best feeling in the world.
“Every time I watch the goal (UCL final), I get emotional. I don’t think there’s anything better in the world than this.”
Last season, a controversial clip involving Karim Benzema emerged on the internet wherein the Frenchman was seen asking his teammates not to pass the ball to Vinicius. The Brazilian gave his thoughts on the story and added that he had great affection for his teammate.
“The controversy with Benzema? He called me after it and said ‘you know I like you a lot, what they said wasn’t right’ and I believe him, I have great affection for him.”
He was then asked if he considered himself a role model at the club after his impressive season last year. However, the youngster instantly denied it and reiterated that he was only at the beginning of his career.
“No, I’m only 21 years old. I want to follow players like Karim, Modric, Marcelo, who won 5 UCL titles. I want to get as close to them as possible. That’s when someone can call me that.”
The Ballon d’Or is a prize every footballer dreams of lifting one day. The 21-year-old admitted that it is a desire of his but insisted that he had a lot of time.
”It’s something that has to come naturally. Karim is 35 years old and now he will win it, Modric won it at 33, I have many years to evolve, a very long road for if God wants me to win it one day.”
Karim Benzema was one of the best players in the world last year. He was one of the major pillars in Real Madrid’s run in the Champions League as he broke record after record. When asked about Benzema, Vinicius said,
“Benzema repays the affection I have for him. He was a player I followed. I’m a big fan and being able to play with him today is incredible. He recently in an interview put me in his top 5 in the world so I’m really happy.”
The interviewers then proceeded to ask the 21-year-old where he would rank himself amongst the world’s best, to which he cheekily replied,
“I’ll leave that to the people, but remember I scored a goal in the final, a goal in the semi’s and an assist in the quarters (laughs).”
Finishing has been an area in which the winger has struggled in recent years. It was only in the recent season that Vinicius found his scoring boots and terrorized goalkeepers. When asked about the same, he said,
“Yeah, people talk but the last season is always the one that stays. People don’t remember that in my first season I won the best player of the month twice and got injured.”
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.