In Real Madrid’s first two games of the season Carlo Ancelotti decided to flank Karim Benzema with Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard. That seemed reasonable to me. During the entirety of last season Benzema lacked decent support, for one reason or another none of Rodrygo, Marco Asensio or Vinicius managed to rise to the occasion to help the Frenchman to form a formidable attack. Of the three, Vinicius was the most enthusiastic but also the least accurate. It seemed logical for Ancelotti to try and get the best out of two top-level players in the returning Bale and the recovered Hazard. Against Alavés they appeared to be enjoying themselves. Against Levante, less so. Bale compensated with a goal but Hazard was well off the pace.
In both games Ancelotti hooked them on the hour-mark, as much to give them a rest (neither is in the greatest physical shape after an injury hit last campaign) as to give his Brazilian youngsters a nod. On both occasions Rodrygo did not respond as the Italian would have liked but Vinicius revolutionized the attack. In Vitoria he came off the bench in favourable conditions, with the result more or less secure and Alavés pulled out of their tactical shape, which was to the benefit of his characteristics on the break. He was fast and in form, and capped his cameo with a goal – the element to his game that has been lacking – and a header to boot. A good start that he built on against Levante with another spectacular and incisive performance from the wing that reaped two excellent goals and ensured a point for his side.
Vinicius responds to Ancelotti
That is how a substitute proves his worth: not through declarations, desertion or sulking, but by working twice as hard as when he was in the starting line-up to be at his best when he is handed a chance. It also appears that Vinicius has paid heed to some good advice from Ancelotti on how to put the finishing touch on to attacking moves. His first against Levante was hit calmly across goal, an orthodox finish. His second was drawn from his beginnings in futsal, where like everyone in Brazil he started out. Vinicius has always been as fast as a whippet, enthusiastic and willing to take defenders on. What he lacked was the ability to see the final pass or execute the move himself. If he continues on this path, Madrid will have an excellent forward in Vinicius for many years to come. And Ancelotti will deserve a medal.