While most of the British Isles shiver and reach for an umbrella, Spain has suffered a hot and unpleasant spring so far, but nothing to match Vinicius Jr’s heat right now.
The Real Madrid striker has established himself as one of the best players in Europe and Neymar’s obvious successor in the Brazilian national team.
Quick, trickier than the Times crossword puzzle, and with the cheek of a Christian entering the lion enclosure at the Madrid Zoo, Vinicius regularly makes his opponents beg for mercy with his superlative performances.
And the Copa del Rey final against Osasuna was no exception.
Hosted at La Cartuja in Seville, beloved by the Spanish federation despite offering all the atmosphere of a royal tea party, Madrid looked for their first piece of silverware this season and the perfect pick-me-up before welcoming Manchester City to the Bernabeu on Tuesday .
While Rodyrgo grabbed the headlines with a brace in Real Madrid’s 2-1 success, Vinicius was at his best during the closely contested match and regularly shredded his opponents with the zeal of a government minister destroying incriminating documents.
On one occasion, Jon Moncayola walked unsuspectingly into Vini’s trap attempting to intercept a pass. Big mistake. By arching his body to deny Moncayola access to the ball, the Brazilian international allowed him to roll through both the conqueror’s and conqueror’s legs before hitting the pitch.
Manchester City players, perhaps catching some late night Spanish football following their own win over Leeds, will have shivered to see it. Good luck guys.
Vini is warming up to face Man City again… 👀 pic.twitter.com/WpfTRkVcpj
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 6, 2023
«I think in Europe there is more respect for Vinicius, for the other players and maybe for Madrid,» team-mate Thibaut Courtois said in a recent interview.
“There were no problems against Chelsea and Liverpool and they are difficult rivals, because they play hard in England too. It’s not something you should ask me, you should ask your rivals.
“But it never happens, that’s the problem. So the questions are asked in jest and he likes how people get into Vinicius’ head.
“I hope Vini can respond on the pitch as he is doing. There is an abysmal difference between the boy who arrived five years ago and the one who is now. I am very happy to see him like this and I hope he can continue to score and assist. This is how he will silence people.
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has also spoken out about Vinicius being targeted by rivals on and off the pitch, with racial slurs continuing to be aimed in his direction on an alarming basis:
«On the one hand there is what happens on the pitch and on the other what happens off the pitch,» said Ancelotti. “Other than that, it’s bad for society to still have racism…a modern society can’t be like that.
“And on the pitch the truth is that the players kick him a lot, it’s obvious. Maradona or Pele were also kicked a lot unfortunately. Our luck is that Vinicius has a strong physique and is able to resist [those challenges].”
While strange football can be expected when running around rivals, Ancelotti has once again called on match officials to protect players who he can sometimes see crossing a line of acceptable behaviour.
The Italian added on the need to protect players like Vinicius: “We have this concern, it’s quite normal. He tries to beat his man one-on-one a lot, he dribbles… and the only way to preserve this type of player, not just Vinicius, but all players, is justice.
«Only this can prevent something bad from happening.»
Considering how Vinicius is playing, Pep Guardiola and his City players need to consider all sorts of methods to stop the Madrid star from rampaging in their Champions League semi-final.
By Michael Lee
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