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Vinicius Junior’s season exposes flaws in Real Madrid’s youth policy

Real Madrid v Real Betis Sevilla - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

It was around this time last year that Vinicius Junior announced himself to Real Madrid fans with a decisive performance against Real Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Brazilian winger had made his debut for the club earlier in the season, however the Valladolid match was a real turning point for him. Since then, Vinicius’s journey has been an actual rollarcoaster. It built from last November until the home leg against Ajax in February where he went off injured. Since then, its been a rapid ride down hill.

The fans have booed him, the manager has dropped him from the first team and, perhaps worst of all, Rodrygo has taken his golden boy moniker. Despite all that happened, the only thing that has really changed for Vinicius is perception. When he broke into a dreary Solari team last season, no one was expecting him to take Real Madrid by the scruff of the neck offensively. He was fragile goods last year, now he’s just another squad player.

This perception, though prevalent, is wrong. Vinicius is still a 19-year-old kid who recently moved to a new country, he is still learning the European game and is still far from the finished product. It’s concerning for the long term that comments such as these need to be made and its even more concerning that, despite the criticism Vinicius has received from fans and the press, that the club has done so little to protect him from it.

Sure, it was a beautiful moment to see Vinicius express himself honestly following his goal against Osasuna, however, one must also question how placing a kid under so much pressure that he breaks down after scoring a goal helps his development.

It’s undeniable that Vinicius would have benefited from a loan move away from the club, however, Real Madrid’s current approach to loans offers little promise of success.

It seems every season, Real Madrid’s loan moves are a disaster barring a few names and this year has been no different. Andriy Lunin, Takefusa Kubo, Javi Sanchez, Jorge De Frutos, all talented players in their own right, have been sent out to clubs who have little incentive to play them. Achraf Hakimi and Martin Odegaard have been long running exception to the rule and prove that good loan moves do exist. Sadly, their moves seem more luck than anything.

Sergio Reguilion and Dani Ceballos would also be classified as successful loan moves had they actually needed to be made in the first place. Reguilion’s move to Sevilla makes more sense than Ceballos’s as the full back didn’t have top level experience Ceballos boasted, however, that doesn’t explain why Zidane kept Vinicius or Fedrico Valverde. What seems more likely is, like Ceballos, Zidane does not see a future for Reguilion at Madrid, despite not really giving them an honest chance.

Given the rumoured and finalised arrivals, its hard to see how either of these players get back to Madrid in the short term and its concerning that this youth project is being run by a manager happy to cut players without giving them a decent shot.

Among this mismash of issues, Real Madrid continue to buy players almost indiscriminately. Brahim Diaz has become a bizarre and mysterious purchase, joining Alberto Soro on that list. With an every growing list of young players succeeding in world football, it seems only more are coming to Real, despite such minimal movement with the youth prospects already here.

The concerns raised here have all come very early and without access to the inner workings of Real Madrid. All Real’s current youth prospects are still very young, the loan market might well not be as simple as other clubs make it look, Zidane might surprise me in the summer and the club might be playing its long term vision close to its chest. However, any success Real Madrid’s youth policy has enjoyed so far seems more by luck than design and one worries what will happen once that luck runs out.

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