Another young Brazilian talent sports a smile that oozes of youthful exuberance. Still yet to even part ways with the braces on his teeth, the starlet is already involved in a prolific transfer fee. But who exactly is Vinícius Júnior? Well, he is a mystery to many. When one searches his name there is not much information apart from YouTube highlights, and yet the youngster is already so polarizing among Real Madrid fans. Weeks ago, almost no one had heard his name, but after just one International tournament, Vinícius Júnior now has a confirmed transfer worth €45 million plus add-ons on his way to Real Madrid.
Dubbed as “the next Neymar”, Vinícius Júnior certainly has high expectations to live up to. Making his big-stage debut in the Under-17 South American Championship, Vinícius led all players in scoring en route to a dominant tournament win for Brazil. With seven goals in nine matches, the young Brazilian showcased his immense potential against the best young talent South America has to offer. But we all know how deceiving online highlights can be, so what exactly does Vinícius Júnior excel at? What does he struggle with? Hopefully this scouting report can shed some light on the enigmatic talent Vinícius possesses.
Watching tape, the first things that catch your eye are the typical Brazilian flair and skill. It is quite obvious that Vinícius Júnior possesses much confidence on the ball, similar to other famous Brazilian starlets.
Another thing that instantly stuck out was his fast feet. The youngster’s dribbling is top quality, and his control is superb. He glides with the ball at his feet, and has the speed to beat players off the dribble.
Similar to Marco Asensio, Vinícius Júnior possesses a change of pace that bamboozles defenders, leaving players in his wake. In the final third, this is especially devastating, as the ability to quickly change direction drew countless fouls. One game in particular against Chile (a 5-0 drubbing), showed Vinícius’ qualities on full display. After drawing four fouls, including a yellow card in under 25 minutes on the same player, said player was basically helpless for the remainder of the match as Vinícius ran at the poor kid over and over again.
Vinícius’ versatility was another thing that stuck out. The wonder-kid can play on both wings, having the size to terrorize fullbacks, and the pace to terrorize central defenders. But Brazil’s under-17 manager gave him much more freedom than that, allowing Vinícius to roam in a second striker role. The result was a terrorized backline guarded by a midfield that simply could not keep up with his pace. But while Vinícius Júnior can play effectively as a second striker, he made passes that reminded one of a true number 10 rather than a winger or striker. He is more than capable of playing long diagonal passes, switching play, as well darting deadly vertical balls over the top of the defense to fellow strike partners.
Like all great Brazilian attackers, Vinícius Júnior has a rather audacious side, especially when attempting to beat a goalkeeper. Difficult finishes that include controlling a through ball before shooting in between a keeper’s legs, or converting absurdly difficult chips.
The last thing that Vinícius does exceptionally well is use his body and physique effectively. Although not particularly tall at 5 feet 10 inches, Vinícius uses his balance and low, but deceptively strong center of gravity to keep possession. Not only is his body used well on offense, it is used on defense as well. Whenever Vinícius or another teammate loses the ball, the defensive work-rate is immediately evident. A willingness to defend the flanks as well as eagerly press high are traits that you rarely find in young attackers.
While his Pros far outweigh his Cons, like any 16-year old, Vinícius Júnior does have red flags in his game. One of these holes is a bad habit of relying on knocking the ball forward 5-10 yards in order to beat defenders. While this works more often than not in a U-17 tournament, it will not work as well in bigger leagues and matches.
As seen in the clip, Vinícius Júnior can be guilty of losing the ball by trying to beat someone for pace. This can lead to inconsistent play, something that Vinícius struggled with from time to time during the tournament. This particular problem is something that can be easily fixed, thankfully, as the player has already shown his ability to beat players off the dribble without simply just knocking the ball forward. This would happen multiple times a match. However, when the ball was lost, his defensive work-rate impressively kicked in to amend for his mistake. As Real Madrid saw with Gareth Bale’s struggles, simply being able to knock the ball forward is not enough to succeed in La Liga.
Another hole that could cause the fee Madrid coughed over to be a risky one actually involves one of his biggest strengths: His physique. His physique is part of what makes him so dominant, but what happens when everyone else in his age group begins to catch up in size and speed? Well, after coming on as a late game substitute for Flamengo a few days ago in only his second appearance for the club, his short performance should help ease this worry that he won’t be as effective against players his own size or bigger.
These highlights occurred in just over 10 minutes of play. After a debut in which he seemed timid, the video above shows that he is moving past the expected fear that comes with being a young debutant at a surprisingly quick rate. His flair, and lightning quick change of pace were on full display, as he put in a very solid (albeit short) shift against players much older than he.
Without question, the biggest flaw in Vinícius Júnior’s game is indecisiveness and bad judgement at crucial moments. Whether that be holding onto the ball too long, trying to be too cheeky, or just making the wrong decision in front of goal, it is a red flag. Overthinking the final pass or shot is something that isn’t uncommon among players his age, but it is an issue that needs to be corrected in order for him to be as effective as possible.
However, while this is a concern, it does not make him a ball-hog like many other young starlets. He shows a willingness to pass to teammates, and especially enjoys doing so in a flashy way.
The biggest Con involving Vinícius Júnior has absolutely nothing to do with his style of play. I mean, just look at that price. Real Madrid are paying €45 million for a 16-year old with only two first-team appearances. If that isn’t a direct reflection of the madness of the modern transfer market, I’m not sure what else is.
Is Vinícius Júnior worth the risk?
Real Madrid have agreed a €45m deal with Flamengo for the transfer of 16 yr old Vinicius Junior.— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) May 21, 2017
He's played 20 minutes of senior football. pic.twitter.com/K2lX8L3lXn
When Real Madrid fans learned that their club was going to pay a large fortune for an unproven 16-year old, many had the normal reaction, which was to question club management. After all, in the past, Florentino Perez has been known to overspend in order to get what he wants. But something about this transfer feels different. While Madrid has been known to overspend for players, the club’s scouting has been elite over the past few seasons. This scouting has helped establish the foundation for the club’s future, with the next decade looking incredibly bright for Los Blancos.
Real Madrid are putting a lot of faith in a very young player, but one who is comparable to current Barcelona superstar Neymar. If it pays off, and Vinícius becomes a superstar, Florentino Perez looks like a genius. But if it does not pay off, as the risk with young players can be so great, Madrid may have just made one of the worst purchases the transfer market has seen in years.
How do you improve a squad that already has everything? It’s easy, just invest in more young talent to keep the good times rolling. Risky? Absolutely. But the potential reward is worth so much more than the potential risk.
It is important to remember that this player is only 16 years old. He will need years before he is first-team ready, but will the notoriously impatient Madridistas be willing to wait? Gabriel Jesus did not move to Europe until he was 19, while Neymar did not go until he was 21. Madrid fans have no choice but to be patient with him and trust the club’s management that has already assembled an astounding amount of young talent within the squad. Having this level of pressure placed on one’s shoulders at such a young age must be beyond difficult, and adding to that pressure will not help Vinícius Júnior’s development in the slightest.
I have very high expectations after watching Vinícius Júnior’s matches. He has all the tools to be a superstar, but must make sure to keep his head on his shoulders, and remain diligent with his development. Every indication we’ve been given so far says that he will be a superstar for both the Seleção, and Real Madrid. Only time will tell if Vinícius Júnior is to be remembered as the next Brazilian great, or another example of the volatility of potential at a young age.