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SOCCER

Vinícius: “Rodrygo and I suffered a lot and we feared the worst”

Vinícius has spoken openly about his problems with opponents this season.

Update:
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Brazil Press Conference - Juventus Training Center, Turin, Italy - November 17, 2022 Brazil's Vinicius Junior is interviewed by Reuters after a press conference REUTERS/Massimo Pinca
MASSIMO PINCAREUTERS

“Thank God, another day without picking up an injury,” Vinícius tweeted after emerging unscathed in Real Madrid’s last league before the World Cup against Cádiz. The Brazilian is the player who receives the most fouls in Europe’s top five leagues and the fouls have been increasing. Six, seven and five fouls were committed on Vinícius by Elche, Rayo and Cádiz respectively. It’s a growing trend that worries Madrid. And Vinícius himself is worried, as he admitted in an interview with Reuters. “What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch, but it has gone too far,” he stresses.

“You can come on strong, but they were being dirty in the challenges. Rodrygo and I suffered a lot in those last games and we feared the worst, getting injured and missing the World Cup”. Fortunately, they are both in Tite’s Brazil squad for the World Cup and will be able to enjoy their first World Cup in Qatar. However, the forward understands that “when you start to become an important player, the opponents come after you harder”. “You have to learn to deal with that,” he adds.

It’s not an easy task. At times, especially in this final stretch of games, the 22-year-old has been caught up in protests of desperation, with Carlo Ancelotti playing a key role in controlling his player. “I learned a lot from Neymar when he played for Barcelona, he also suffered a lot. Cristiano (Ronaldo), when he played for Real, too,” Vinícius continues. Two stars who, like him, are targets for opposing defences.

Brazil's Vinícius Júnior is interviewed by Reuters after a press conference.
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Brazil's Vinícius Júnior is interviewed by Reuters after a press conference.MASSIMO PINCAREUTERS

“If opponents chase you, it’s because they’re afraid of you”

Karim Benzema has acted as a mentor for Vinícius, who has now taken over as leader of the club’s forward line while the Frenchman battles his own physical problems. “It was Karim (Benzema) who told me to be calm and have peace of mind, because if the opponents are chasing you it’s because you’re relevant, because they’re scared of you. That’s why, when I get the ball and go forward, I do it with desire. Yes, they can hurt me. But I’m ready for the challenge”.

He also highlights his compatriot Neymar, who walked the path that Vinicius is now on: “Neymar went through a lot as a young player, having to play at such a young age and with a lot of pressure. So he’s the one today who’s making everything easier for the new generation”. An idol who he now plays with for Brazil: “It’s a dream because we’ve grown up idolising him. What he does as a leader is very important. He knows that by helping us, we can also help him a lot, to have a great World Cup”.

The ‘other Vinicius’ also discussed doing his bit for the betterment of society. “I think I have to do more. I see how sportsmen like Lewis Hamilton and LeBron James do good and I want to do the same, to help people in many ways. Education is important, because not everyone can become a player. A lot of people try, but not everyone makes it. So I strive to help people in Brazil to keep improving and evolving as a person,” he says, with the words of a veteran, despite being just 22 years old.

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