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Vinícius Júnior: The Verdict

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Who will the Brazilian prodigy play for this season?

In May 2017, Real Madrid announced that they had agreed a deal with Brazilian giants Flamengo to sign 16 year old academy player Vinícius Júnior for a reported €45 million. He was originally supposed to remain in Brazil until the summer of 2019, but after making good progress his move was brought forwards to this summer. Now the big question is, what will happen to him this season? After the player himself name dropped Castilla during his presentation interview yesterday, it became apparent that he may stay in Madrid and look to establish himself with the B team. In this article we will be looking at four reasons why Vinícius should join Castilla, as well as four reasons why he shouldn’t. We will also weigh up his other options and consider some of the factors that may affect his development.

Flamengo v Atletico GO - Brasileirao Series A 2017
Vinícius Júnior with Flamengo.
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Why should Vinícius Júnior play for Castilla?

First team contact

The main thought process behind keeping Vinícius at Castilla would be that he can continue to interact with the first team on a regular basis. Keeping him at the club would allow him some leeway when it comes to settling into his new environment. He’d be given the patience and freedom to adapt to the culture and a different playing style, whilst constantly training with the first team. Judging by the hints that both the club and player have been giving out, Vinícius could enter a unique arrangement that would see him become a first team player that plays for Castilla whenever he is not involved with the first team. This move would differ from that of Martin Ødegaard’s in 2015, likely because despite being the biggest talent in the world at the time, Ødegaard cost Madrid not even a tenth of the price. Money talks, and the consensus is that failure is not an option after the substantial fee that Real Madrid paid to secure his services. If Vinícius was to be a first team player that was guaranteed a game every week, whether it be with the senior side or Castilla; then that can only be viewed as a positive factor.

Castilla is a breeding ground for success

There is no denying it. Real Madrid has established themselves as one of the biggest producers of talented players on the planet, and Castilla is at the heart of that. The list is endless, and the club used their successful youth system to build the foundation blocks of a side that went on to win four Champions League titles in five years. And it isn’t just the players. The last three Real Madrid bosses all began their managerial careers with Castilla, with the man himself Zinedine Zidane making the step up directly from the Castilla bench. The environment that a B team creates is exclusive, and the developmental work they do is unprecedented. You will struggle to find a team in Europe that hasn’t benefitted from B team graduates. Unless you have already announced yourself on the world stage like for example, Kylian Mbappé, and you are capable of consistently performing in some of the biggest competitions in the world at a very young age - then I don’t think Castilla is ever a bad option.

Emulation

Castilla is a fantastic tool for development, but it has also been used to bridge the culture gap over from different continents. The list of Brazilians alone that made Castilla their first European destination and then went on to become top level players includes names like Casemiro, Fabinho, Filipe Luís and Willian José – with a whole new influx of Brazilians flooding into the B team in recent seasons. There are however reasons to be cautious. Whilst Abner can point to his injuries to justify his failures, players such as the seriously talented Alípio simply failed to make the jump over, and have since faded away. For Vinícius Júnior, Castilla provides a much better platform to settle into his new home than a loan move ever could, and it allows the club to keep full control over his development.

His confidence

You only have to spend a minute watching the boy in training to grasp how confident he is at the moment, and why wouldn’t he be? The 18 year old is one of the biggest young names on the planet, and has just joined the biggest club in world football. His playing style reflects his personality. If he were to play for Castilla this season with his current mood sustained, he could be one of the best players to ever play for the side. We know what happens to Castilla players that consistently stand out from the rest; they grab the attention of the first team. If Vinícius were to have an outstanding season with Castilla, then he could find himself being a first team regular sooner than we all think.

Why Vinícius Júnior should not play for Castilla

His Price tag

Vinícius Júnior alone is worth more than every single club in Segunda División B. Only the other B teams financed by big clubs could come close to even thinking about spending this much. It is immoral to field a player worth that much in a league full of teams that simply cannot compete with these figures. This has been a concern of mine for a long time, and until now I was under the impression that his price tag shut the door completely to a potential Castilla move. We will see.

Santiago Solari

As a manager this man is never going to be a good point. Much of the backlash aimed at the idea of the youngster playing for Castilla has been directed towards Solari. The manager has disappointingly but predictably been allowed to prolong his reign of terror for another campaign. Despite this, there is not even the slightest chance that Solari would get a say on when or where to play the Brazilian. This type of influence on Solari’s team is not uncommon, with renowned butter-fingers goalkeeper Luca Zidane being fast tracked into the starting line-up whenever fit and available in recent seasons, on the basis of his second name. With all that being said, if there is even a small possibility that Vinícius Júnior may have to endure a Santiago Solari team talk or training session, then his progress with Castilla has the potential to be a car crash. If Guti, Miguel Ramis or Zidane were in charge then I would be pushing the Castilla idea a whole lot more, but the fact of the matter is Vinícius will learn absolutely nothing useful from Solari.

The standard

Whilst I cited four acclaimed Brazilians as a positive factor that Vinícius should attempt to emulate, it has to be said that all four of those players played for Castilla in LaLiga2. Castilla currently play a league down in Segunda División B; a hellhole consisting of 80 teams all trying to either make a name for themselves and reach the play-offs, or scrap their way to safety from relegation. It is not a great standard, and the playing style of many sides in the division varies drastically from the top level quality that Vinícius will be looking to quickly adapt to. For Vinícius personally, it would certainly be a step down from the standard he is currently used to playing at. To counter this argument I would say that a player is not defined by the standard he is playing at, and irrespective of the league – good Castilla performances can carry you through into the first team. Dani Carvajal was only a Segunda División B player for Castilla, and his quality was unaffected. If Castilla were to hypothetically become group champions this season, and then win all of their play-off games to earn promotion and lift the league title – then that would be a far more productive than spending a season in and out of a La Liga team struggling in a relegation battle.

He has other options

Castilla is only one of three decisions that can be taken for Vincius Júnior’s immediate future. The second would be to hand him a first team place outright, and the third would be to send him out on loan. For Mariano Díaz, a season in the first team did him and his mind-set the world of good, despite a severe lack of minutes. Raphael Varane also flourished after opting to stay with the first team from a young age. However, several current first team players have had to depart the club in order to seek out minutes in an attempt to cement their future places in the team. It really does come down to the individual. It is worth noting that the risks that come with a loan move can be very serious. Players could easily find themselves in circumstances where they fall out of favour and are demoted to the bench for an entire season. Perhaps worse, they could experience a conflicting shift of two or three different managers in the space of a few months as results take their toll, and the new coaches could present completely different ideas and instructions to their predecessor. If the young prodigy was to be loaned out back to Flamengo however, where he was beginning to shine, I would have few objections.

In my opinion, any of the three possible decisions that the club makes on Vinícius Junior would be feasible. I believe that finding the perfect loan to a La Liga club would be the best option, but that is so much harder done than said. I think if the club fail to find a suitable team for him, then Castilla would be the second best option with extended first team benefits. Whilst I believe than handing Vinícius a first team place would be the worst decision out of the three, it still would have some privileged benefits to it. I certainly do not actively object to any of the options, as they all consist of potential positives, and negatives. Remember, the biggest risk of all was signing a 16 year old that had never played a game of professional football in his life for €45 million. After the way that the last year has panned out for him, the risks attached to his immediate future are inferior in comparison.

During his presentation he was handed a shirt with no number. This could signify that the club are planning to loan him out, so he does not require a squad number yet. What many people do not know however, is that players have to be registered with certain numbers (I believe it is any number over 25) to be able to transparently move from a senior team to a reserve team in Spain. Whilst it would be smart to attach the Brazilians name to a number at an early stage to try and brand him, Real Madrid are currently not in a position to do so if they envisage him featuring for Castilla this season. I believe he will end up playing at least some games for Castilla this year, and I think that the best thing to do is to allow him plenty of time and patience, as well as support. Real Madrid have signed one of the most promising talents on the planet, and if he is nurtured and encouraged correctly, he could become the spearhead of the next great generation. Where do you think Vinícius Júnior should end up this season?