10 Aug Real Madrid putting huge faith in Vinicius Junior ahead of 2018/19 season
Thibaut Courtois’ imminent arrival at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has been the high point of Real Madrid’s summer business thus far. The Belgian stopper will arrive for a fee of around £35 million which is extraordinarily low for a proven, world-class goalkeeper and it brings to an end the era of Keylor Navas as the club’s first choice.
However, it’s in outfield positions where Los Blancos continue to have concerns ahead of the season opener against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus leaves the European champions without a guaranteed 40 goals, and to this point, there hasn’t been a star signing to replace the outgoing veteran.
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were the primary targets for Florentino Perez, yet the market has even shifted to a point where the Real Madrid president can’t always get what he desires. Eden Hazard’s outstanding performances for Belgium at the World Cup fired him into the crosshairs of the Spanish giants, yet dealing with the Blues this summer has been far from straightforward.
The sale of the former Genk goalkeeper has been forced on Marina Granovskaia and co courtesy of the fact the 26-year-old’s contract will expire in June of 2019. The goalkeeper had informed the club that he wouldn’t be signing a new deal and was desperate to return to LaLiga. In contrast, Hazard’s deal runs until June 2020.
Real Madrid was unable to force Chelsea’s hand, and with the English transfer window set to close on Thursday, it’s difficult to foresee Los Blancos making a high-profile attacking signing with their alternative targets Willian and Mohamed Salah both staying with their respective Premier League clubs.
Marco Reus would have once been a target for Europe’s elite clubs, but injuries have plagued his career, and he’s no longer seen as the phenomenal talent he once was. Neither Mbappe nor Neymar will move this summer, while few attacking players are plying their trade in Serie A who would suit the club.
Such a lack of activity in the transfer market will leave Julen Lopetegui in an unenviable position of having to fill the shortfall of Ronaldo’s goals with the players already at his disposal. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will have a newfound responsibility placed on their shoulders, although neither excelled throughout the 2017/18 season.
However, Vinicius Junior has arrived from Flamengo this summer after Los Blancos paid £38 million for the teenager the previous year. The Brazilian has starred for the Rio de Janeiro club in their domestic and continental campaigns, regularly finding the net, and has been fast-tracked to the Spanish capital to start contributing right away.
Having played a big part in Real Madrid’s pre-season tour to the United States, the 18-year-old is now expected to play a significant role in the team’s season. The pressure on the teenager to produce immediately is huge, especially with Lopetegui often preferring to utilise a three-forward system.
Hopes are high for the Brazilian, despite his relative inexperience, and Perez genuinely believes that he has got in on the ground floor with a player who will reach the level shown by Neymar at both Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
Money was never previously an object for the construction mogul during his two spells at the helm of Spain’s biggest football club. He smashed the world transfer record to sign Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, yet the sale of Neymar has shifted the market in a manner which even he wasn’t prepared for.
Los Blancos aren’t willing to pay the astronomical fees teams are now asking for their stars. It’s difficult to believe that the pursuit of Hazard wouldn’t have been successful in previous years, but it was simply too much of a fiscal gamble to bet £160 million on a player who has never quite touched the level of Ronaldo.
Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have both seen as talents who could eventually be worth £150 million at least. However, Real Madrid felt it was more prudent to secure their signatures before they became too expensive.
This is somewhat humorous when you recall the reported exchange between the president and Rafael Benitez over the signing of Mateo Kovacic, where the coach’s claims he would be worth much more money in future seasons fell on deaf ears as Perez is said to have remarked that the club would then just sign him as the finished product. It’s worth noting that Benitez eventually got his way as the Croatian joined the Spanish giants that summer.
Flamengo enjoyed the fruits of Vinicius Junior’s talents last season, but it’s worth remembering that he wasn’t always a guaranteed starter at senior level. His skills were often called upon from the bench by Reinaldo Rueda and then Mauricio Barbieri.
To go from the bench of a Brazilian club to a senior role at the biggest club in world football is an unfathomable step up. The forward will have to adapt to life in Europe quickly, especially if Benzema’s goal drought continues.
For Lopetegui, the summer of 2018 has hardly been a memorable one. His World Cup dreams were shattered when he was dismissed by the Spanish FA for taking the Los Blancos job, and he’s now seen his best player leave for Juventus.
Speculation persists over Luka Modric’s future, and with Kovacic set to leave for Chelsea on loan, it’s difficult to suggest the squad is as strong as in previous seasons. A lack of attacking options could hinder Lopetegui’s plans, and he will be determined for the team to get off to a good start in the UEFA Super Cup, knowing that a defeat could set his reign down a tricky path.
For Vinicius Junior, he has been given his dream move and has the opportunity many aren’t afforded by going into Los Blancos as an immediate starter. However, he is under immense pressure to deliver and replace Cristiano Ronaldo, a task that is widely seen as impossible, ask Manchester United.