Vinicius Jr is hoping to inspire Real Madrid to their 14th European Cup when they take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.
He is the smiling speedster on the wing that Real Madrid and La Liga hope will become their new big star.
At the tender age of 21, Vinicius Jr has grown into one of Real’s key players this season. And his head to head with Trent Alexander-Arnold will be one of the key battlegrounds in Saturday evening’s Champions League final.
Just consider how influential he was during the late comeback against Manchester City in the semi-final. In the first leg at the Etihad, neither John Stones or Fernandinho could cope with his pace, and Vinicius scored a brilliant solo goal.
In the second leg, Kyle Walker was back and magnificent in subduing his surging breaks and sprints in behind… but the right-back was forced off injured in the 72nd minute when the score was 0-0 on the night. City scored to go ahead 5-3 on aggregate before throwing away the advantage.
Vinicius undertook a punishing fitness regime last summer in a bid to reach the next level and credits Carlo Ancelotti’s tough training regime for raising his game. A flood of goals and assists have set La Liga alight this season – his fourth at the Bernabeu since signing from Flamengo in Brazil – and he has struck up a strong playing relationship with striker Karim Benzema.
Wary of interest from Manchester United, Real want to extend his current deal to 2027 and insert a £400million release clause to bind him to the club. Not that Vinicius has any plans other than emulating some Bernabeu legends.
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He said: “I’m close to my renewal, we’re moving forward and I’m very happy at the biggest club in the world. I don’t want to leave here, I want to stay as long as Marcelo, Karim and Luka Modric have stayed – players who have made a very beautiful story and I want to continue like them. “I’m a Madrid guy and I am happy here.”
He earns £3.5million a year and can expect a substantial pay rise, especially if he is a hero against Jurgen Klopp’s men. “I’m not afraid of making mistakes and, if I make them, I’ll just keep trying. I play with joy,” grinned Vinicius. “I believe I’ve improved a lot and I still have a lot of room for improvement because I’m very young. I like to learn with the great players who play here.
“I’ve given Karim space and he’s done the same for me. We’ve been trying to perfect this relationship. He’s been helping me to assist more, score more and help the team more. Karim is a great person and he’s a great player. He gives me some tips and does everything he can to help me on and off the pitch.”
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