The Vinicius call to Zidane that changed his fortunes
The young Brazilian called his French coach to apologise for his behaviour at the Etihad Stadium, when the gaffer confronted him about his mobile.
Vinicius Jr has not resigned himself to playing a secondary role in Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid side. His relationship with the French coach deteriorated sharply after last season’s Champions League round of 16 match against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on 7 August 2020. But he wanted to make up for his poor judgement that day.
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Vinicius’ Zidane call to make amends
Los Blancos had suffered a 1-2 defeat at the Bernabeu that had them on the ropes. With Eden Hazard out of form and coming off several injuries, the 20-year-old Brazilian was hoping to start the most important game of the year. But in the hotel in Manchester, Zidane announced his starting eleven and he had been left out of it. Vini took the news badly.
Upon arrival at the Etihad, the starters went out to warm up while the substitutes settled into the stands. Before that though, they did some stretching on the pitch as they checked the state of the turf. But two of the substitutes were missing. A concerned Zidane headed to the dressing room where he found Vinicius and Marcelo both engrossed in their mobile phones.
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Zizou didn't say anything, but it didn't sit well with him. In fact, Vini wasn’t even asked to warm up in the second half despite elimination looming (nor did Marcelo). It was a covert punishment in everyone's eyes. The days passed and Vinicius, frustrated by what had happened, stepped up and strengthened his role within the team. And then, with others off on holiday, Vini made a call to his boss and asked him if his substitution had been a punishment for the mobile phone 'incident'.
Vinicius' mea culpa
During the call the young player accepted responsibility for his actions and promised maximum commitment to the gaffer for the season ahead, adding that he would never behave like that again in the event of being left out. Zidane thanked the player for his courage in calling him personally and for his humble acceptance of blame. He assured him that he would indeed be given opportunities like the others and that if he continued to work well in training he would be rewarded on the pitch. As it has turned out, so far this season he has accumulated seven starts in LaLiga and the Champions League matches, all of which have been victories (his tally in 2020-21 is three goals and three assists). His only real blemish was that bad afternoon he had in Alcoy in the Copa del Rey elimination against lowlyAlcoyano.
It is true that on occasions he has been returned to the bench this season, but Zizou is starting to give him a leading role in important games, as was seen last Sunday, when everyone expected him to be on the bench due to the return of Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez. It was the Galician who was left on the bench against Valencia and Vini started, playing the full game and notably set up Mendy for the goal that was later disallowed for a very narrow offside. Against Atalanta everything points to Vinicius taking to the field for kick-off again.
This time it could be his chance to make amends in a big Champions League game. The positive aspect is that Vinicius' sporting life changed for the better thanks to that phone call. Zidane takes players to task when they don't follow his will, but he also knows how to forgive. The Frenchman was also once 20 after all. It feels as though the two are now in a much better place together and in Bergamo we will be able to see for ourselves what the effect of that is.
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