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Over the years, when a Brazilian player emerged on the scenes, his talent was compared with the benchmark set by arguably two of the greatest players to have played the game; Pele and Ronaldo. In recent times, however, the parameter of comparison has moved on from the legends to the newest superstar from the land of Samba, Neymar.
So when a player bursts onto the scenes and is suddenly hailed as the ‘next Neymar’, almost the entire footballing community takes notice. And this exactly has been the case for young Vinicius Junior who is taking the Brazilian football by storm at a tender age of 16.
The 16-year-old Flamengo wonder kid has been making great waves in his homeland, attracting major interest from a number of European heavyweights. Yet to play a single match at senior level, Vinicius Jr. is already attracting scouts from all around the world with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all monitoring the latest football sensation from Brazil.
So, who is Vinicius Junior? What type of a player is he? What does the future hold for the 16-year old? Let’s find out.
Having joined the Escolinha Fla Sao Goncalo, the Flamengo-affiliated school as a five-year old boy, Vinicius displayed great attitude even at such a young age. One of his teachers at the school, Cacau, citing some stories from his developmental years, said:
“A curious thing about Vinicius is that, if we let him, he would have trained with every age group. He just never seemed to tire. To this day, he comes back and visits us, bringing his medals and sharing his experiences with the children. We really admire the fact that he always comes back here.“
Having starred in several regional tournaments, the wonder kid moved to the Flamengo academy, where he again managed to catch the eyes of several coaches with his technique and ability on the ball and a keen eye for a goal standing out.
Vinicius led the charge for Flamengo’s junior team to triumph in Copa Votorantim in 2015, before continuing his excellent form in the Campeonato Carioca where he became the creative hub of the team, scoring and creating at free will.
However, it was the Copa Sao Paulo, Brazil’s much-decorated youth tournament, earlier this year, where he really emerged into the limelight. He dominated the competition, where players three years older to him were also playing. Then, at the 2017 South American Under-17 Championship in Chile he, just like Neymar, was the stand-out player, attracting scouts from across Europe. With 7 goals in the competition, Vinicius steered Brazil to victory in the tournament. Till date, Junior has netted 17 goals in 18 appearances for Brazil’s Under-17 side.
His performances have been so catchy that there have been comparisons drawn with the likes of Neymar, Rivaldo and so on.
Much like the Barcelona star, Vinicius plays as a left-winger but is at home on the opposite flank, as well as playing through the middle, and leading the attack.
Vinicius’ biggest asset is his ability to run at blistering pace with the ball at his feet. His speed allows him to drive his side up the field in a matter of seconds and can act as an effective outlet, especially on the counter. Able to hug the touchlines like an old-fashioned winger, the 16-year old can also be equally devastating when he cuts in from the flanks.
His ability to beat his man is absolutely brilliant as he can leave a defender standing in his tracks with his pace and dribbling abilities, which has resulted in him being on the end of some crunching tackles in the past. He also possesses impressive shooting skills, and he can unleash some powerful strikes with great accuracy. He has great temperament and skills in one-on-one situations.
He is quite accomplished for his age too. Vinicius has shown great confidence in his abilities and has proven to be a tricky customer to deal with due to his incredible pace and acceleration, along with the unpredictability that he brings.
Some reports suggest that Barcelona have already held serious negotiations with Flamengo over a move for the teenage sensation, but FIFA’s rules against under-18s making international transfers is the only thing preventing the deal being formally completed.
Vinicius has a release clause of £26 million in his contract, which Flamengo are eager to increase or remove it completely. But negotiations over a new deal have stalled, meaning that anyone who meets that price will be able to speak to the teenager.
There is no real rush for the boy to leave South America as FIFA rules mean he won’t be allowed to move to another continent until he turns 18 next year. But the amount of interest that he is generating and the stature of clubs that are taking an interest, there is definitely a big move on the cards in the near future for Vinicius.