Santiago Solari finally looks like he is getting somewhere with his Real Madrid squad, and his players are beginning to recapture the type of form they showed under Zinedine Zidane.
It’s taken a little while, but Florentino Perez has allowed his coach to just get on with it, and live or die by his decisions.
That said, there’s at least one directive that would’ve filtered down from the boardroom at the Santiago Bernabeu.
‘Play Vinicius Junior.’
Signed from Flamengo for a not insignificant €46m just 10 days after making his first-team debut for the Brazilian side, his transfer became effective after his 18th birthday last summer.
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He was officially presented by Los Blancos on July 20, 2018 but in the entire time that Julen Lopetegui was in charge, he was only afforded thirteen minutes on the pitch in three months – three at the end of the Madrid derby and 10 against Alaves.
It was just one of many baffling decisions from the former Spanish national team coach, which ultimately led to his downfall.
Solari has put a few noses out of joint by playing Vinicius ever since he took the role from Lopetegui, but there’s no denying that the kid is fearless and worthy of his place.
He may not have the refinement required for a Real player at this stage, but he is a work in progress and willing to be taught.
Quite what it means for the likes of Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Isco is anyone’s guess, but that won’t worry the teenager who looks like he was born to score goals.
Physical, quick and with a presence of mind that belies his tender years, it’s obvious why Perez was willing to pay such an astronomical fee to secure his services.
The Real president has also shelled out a similar amount for Rodrygo Goes of Santos, who just so happens to be Vinicius’ strike partner for the Brazilian U20 national team.
The pair have dovetailed brilliantly for the Canarinha, and one can see what Los Blancos are trying to do by capturing both players.
Though Rodrygo isn’t as physically imposing as his compatriot, he is much like him in many ways. He’s mature beyond his years, rises to every challenge with a smile on his face, and continues to perform in every game in which he plays.
Indeed, his levels of performance led to him being nominated for the inaugural Kopa Trophy, a ‘Ballon d’Or’ for U21 players eventually won – and no surprise here – by Kylian Mbappe.
The reason they complement each other so well at national junior level is because one is all about scoring goals and being direct, whilst the other has a little more finesse, with technique and wonderful vision to boot.
With Real Madrid due an overhaul at the end of 2018/19, it will be interesting to see who is dispensed with. There simply isn’t enough room for Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Asensio, Isco, Vazquez, Vinicius and Rodrygo in the same front line.
As a result, even those players who are not necessarily being considered as surplus to requirements might start looking elsewhere, because it’s almost certain that Perez will want to pair up the two youngsters up as quickly as practicable.
Once Rodrygo finds his groove in the Spanish capital too, woe betide any defence trying to contain him and his partner-in-crime.
Whether a long-held desire to entice Neymar is yet to be revealed, but a Brazilian front three really would be something to behold.
In the meantime, supporters of the club can bask in the afterglow of knowing that their club still holds sway across the world, and when the best south American youngsters move to Europe, invariably it’s to Real.