Vinicius: "Marcelo warned me: here one day you're Pele; the next you don't play at all"
Vinicius admits to Brazilian magazine Placar that his compatriot had advised him about the pressures of playing at Real Madrid before he had even arrived.
“The other day, Vinicius Junior was flying a kite in São Gonçalo; today he is seen as the future of Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team” – so begins journalist Luiz Felipe Castro’s feature on the Madrid player for Brazilian magazine Placar.
Not forgetting his roots, Vinicius was back to spend Christmas in São Gonçalo, the humble Sao Paolo neighbourhood of his birth, where he had taken some time out of his vacation to distribute presents to local children.
“I am this way and I will never lose my joy,” the young forward tells Placar.
The trademark smile has always accompanied him, although he does acknowledge that his apparent joy sometimes conceals a high degree of nerves.
“I always seem to be calm, but I get very nervous inside. In my debut with Flamengo, for example, I was scared to death. I didn't even want to touch the ball,” he reveals.
Vinicius' life has moved fast. His talent took him from the poor streets of São Gonçalo to Flamengo, where he played with boys two years older than him before making his debut for the first team in May, 2017 at just 16 years old – thus breaking the previous records set by Neymar and Gabriel Jesús.
Days later he signed for Real Madrid for 45 million euros and his status quickly escalated to a level rarely seen in Brazil for a boy of his age. “I let things happen naturally,” he says.
Vinicius’ Ferris wheel at Real Madrid
Just over a year later, he landed at Real Madrid at 18 and has since been on a bit of a Ferris wheel under three different coaches. Julen Lopetegui immediately sent him to Castilla to reach his “cooking point” and hardly made use of him. Then Santiago Solari brought him in to shake up an apathetic and depressed Madrid side and ‘Vini’ took on the challenge with determination until he was injured against Ajax.
Now with Zidane, he is fighting to gain a foothold in the team (he is currently ranked 15th in number of minutes with 699), although he has so far been unable to rediscover that earlier version of himself that initially excited the Bernabéu.
During his season and a half at the club, he has tasted the sweetness of praise and the bitterness of criticism, but admits that he had already been advised of the pressure he would face at the club before he had even arrived.
“Marcelo had already warned me: here, one day you are Pele; and the next you don't play at all,” he confesses to Placar.
After recharging the batteries in São Gonçalo, Vinicius returned to Madrid in the last week of December and will look to face the New Year with optimism, which begins with the trip to neighbours Getafe on Saturday. The Brazilian is aware that, with Hazard injured, now must be his moment.