PETE JENSON: Vinicius left Spanish pundits comparing him to Ronaldo and Pele after saving Real Madrid at Levante… the 21-year-old looks ready to push Eden Hazard out of the side and silence the Kylian Mbappe chat
- Real Madrid drew 3-3 with Levante in their LaLiga clash on Sunday evening
- Vinicius Junior rescued a point for Carlo Ancelotti’s side after equalising twice
- In the 2020-21 season, Vinicius scored three goals in a total of 35 games for Real
- Whereas this season the 21-year-old has three goals in just 50 minutes of football
- He could now push Eden Hazard out and silence the Kylian Mbappe rumours
Vinicius has found the only thing that was missing from his game – goals – and he now looks set to push the underwhelming Eden Hazard out of the Real Madrid team and silence the interminable Kylian Mbappe talk.
In the 2019-20 season Vinicius scored three goals in 29 games. In the 2020-21 season he scored three goals in 35 games. This season he has three goals in 50 minutes of football. ‘It looks like he has learned to finish in the last week,’ said Spanish TV analyst Jorge Valdano.
Vinicius has been Real Madrid’s super-sub in the first two games of the season but that’s a state of affairs that can’t last on this showing. The contrast with Hazard was too stark.
Real Madrid were held to a 3-3 draw against Levante in their LaLiga clash on Sunday evening
Hazard played safe for an hour creating very little threat for Levante save a shot from distance in the second half. Vinicius, blessed with the acceleration that has deserted the Belgian, and now suddenly capable of finishing what he creates, went straight for the rival’s main arteries and terrified their defence.
And it could have been even better for the 21-year-old.
If Aitor Fernandez doesn’t cheat with an outstretched hand 10 meters out of his area then Vinicius ends up with a hat-trick that includes the winning goal. The keeper’s red card seemed scant reward for Madrid’s unplayable winger.
No one was holding back after Vinicius’ best half hour in a Madrid shirt. One Spanish radio pundit likened the first goal to Ronaldo [Nazario] and the second to Pele.
Ancelotti tried to play things down in his post-match press conference hinting that Vinicius should score the first because his speed will always get him away from defenders.
It was Vinicius Junior who rescued a point for Carlo Ancelotti’s side after equalising twice
Vinicius has been Real Madrid’s super-sub in the first two games of the 2021-2022 season
Ancelotti has given Vinicius extra work on the training ground to improve the timing and direction of his runs in behind defences. He has drummed it into the player that his pace is such that if he times his run against a high line defence he will always be able to sprint clear and make a one-on-one situation for himself.
‘It’s not just my finishing that I’ve been working on, it’s losing markers,’ said the Brazilian post-match.
It’s true that Vinicius scored twice against Liverpool last season but then never scored again until the end of the campaign. But something feels different now under Ancelotti.
‘He is starting to look like a very important player,’ said the Real Madrid manager, who spent most of his media appearance after the 3-3 draw agreeing that major work needs to be done defensively.
Only if Ancelotti believes Vinicius is better served destroying teams with his speed in the last half hour of matches can Hazard hope to keep his starting berth on Sunday night’s showing. Starting or as a super-sub Vinicius has already made Real Madrid fans forget about Mbappe.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti (above) has given Vinicius extra work on the training ground to improve the timing and direction of his runs in behind defences
He has told him that his pace can be deadly if he times it right to run against a high line defence
He didn’t put his index finger to his lips to silence his critics after his goals he just wheeled away with a broad grin but he could have been forgiven for looking to vindicate himself.
Right up until game day the talk has been focused on Mbappe and not on the seven forwards Real Madrid already have. It feels like noise, nothing more, with PSG having zero interest in allowing their Parisien superstar to leave before the end of his contract.
And Sunday night’s draw suggests Madrid’s immediate need is for defenders. They missed Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos in the centre of defence for the first time this season. Nacho and Eder Militao were shaky in the middle and were not helped by Lucas Vazquez and David Alaba at full-backs.
The Austrian was hugely influential in the first half pouring forward and assisting Gareth Bale’s goal but left-back is unlikely to end up being his position. On the other flank Lucas was isolated and struggled like the reconverted winger still learning his new trade that he is.
As a result, he could put Eden Hazard out of the Real Madrid starting XI this season
He will also silence the ongoing speculation as to whether Real need to sign Kylian Mbappe
The ever-politically astute Ancelotti was careful not to ask for new defenders post-match. He knows better than to appear to be moaning at a lack of signings.
He said the quality is there but sacrifice and concentration was lacking and blamed his entire defence for a badly positioned line for the first goal and for leaving Lucas one against two in the second goal. He said the third goal was bad luck with Enis Bardhi’s corner hitting Alaba.
He grinned when asked if Vinicius had now played himself into the first team. ‘I look at it slightly differently,’ he said. ‘The 11 who start the game are never going to all finish it.’
It’s true Vinicius has the characteristics to be an unstoppable impact player. But if, as expected, deadline day ticks down with now Mbappe, the headline will be ‘the signing is Vini’ and people will expect him to start.