Just a year ago, the world was Vinicius’ to take. He had just completed a move to Real Madrid from Flamengo as the Spanish capital outfit beat Barcelona to the coveted signature.
£38.7m for a then 16-year-old kid from Br azil is an extortionate amount, even when we take into account the current state of the modern market.
But Vinicius arrived with his reputation already very much set in stone.
He was a top talent hailing from a country globally recognised as one of the best on the planet for producing football prospects. They’ve had some truly generational talents in Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka for example.
The youngster played a total of 49 games for Flamengo and managed to score ten goals while also tallying four assists under his name in the process.
While those numbers are hardly otherworldly, they did point towards his seismic potential. But that was to be expected from a teenager still waiting to make his mark on the biggest stage of them all and also at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
And sure enough, it only got better for him. Vinicius’ brilliant rise in the 2018/19 season was slightly hampered by an unfortunate knee injury that sidelined the Br azilian for 58 days, making him miss out on nine games in the process.
The injury itself was serious but not catastrophic. The problem was that it put a stop to the emphatic momentum he was gaining with each passing day.
He ended up playing 31 games for Real Madrid last campaign, scoring three goals and assisting 12. He was quickly branded the next big thing, the heir of Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu and the new household name of the Galacticos.
Finally, Real Madrid and Florentino Perez had their magical Br azilian to combat Barcelona’s Ronaldinho’s, Neymar’s and Philippe Coutinho’s.
And then it all disappeared in a moment. Or rather, the early signs should already be sounding some alarm bells in Madrid.
The problem isn’t that Vinicius needs to start every game. After all, he’s still young and getting used to European football, so his career at Real Madrid should still very much be given enough time in any case.
But what is concerning at the moment is the role he is supposed to be playing and his position at the club. Real Madrid are currently riddled with injuries and five important players are sidelined, leaving some room for Zinedine Zidane to include some of his less-used squad members.
And sure enough, Vinicius has so far played in all three La Liga fixtures, racking up 118 minutes under his name. But there seems to be concern over his influence, as well as his future in the team.
When he played, he was deployed in his natural left-wing position. However, once Luka Jovic was introduced against Real Valladolid, Vinicius was pushed to the opposite side into a position that is very much still a novelty to the youngster.
The right flank is not his natural side and his preference is to be out on the left, so this could cause problems for his adjustment.
This gets even more worrying when we take into account all the players Real Madrid have on the left side of the pitch. The likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, Brahim Diaz and James Rodriguez can all slot into that position – though it may not be the natural side for all of them on paper.
On top of that, despite the fact some of the aforementioned players are being turned into make-shift wingers – like Rodriguez was on the weekend – they still got into the team over Vinicius.
This might spell trouble for the young Br azilian because it could mean that he will only play in his preferred position on rare occasions, especially if we assume that the newcomer Galactico, Hazard, will be a regular starter on the left-wing once he gets back to full fitness.
The final nail in the coffin would be Real Madrid’s reluctance to put their full trust into the youngster. What seemed like a given last year has somewhat diminished this year. Vinicius was even mentioned as a bargaining chip in Real Madrid’s reported pursuit of Neymar and that might indicate they are not really sold on this prospect just yet.
When we combine all of that it seems the Br azilian might have a tough time enjoying the success he achieved in the first season since he’ll most likely be played out of position.
That story is scarily reminiscent of Coutinho’s sad tale over at Barcelona.
Vinicius’ compatriot was also brought in as a marquee signing and a symbol of a new era, only for him to be played out of position all the time until he was ultimately out of favour with the coach and the board.
He was then used as a bargaining chip with Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar and, when that failed, he was eventually shipped off to Bayern Munich on loan.
It’s safe to say that he went from hero to zero in a matter of months and the same thing could very well happen to Vinicius if Real Madrid don’t play their cards right.
Of course, he is only 19 and still very much developing but the early signs indicate Los Blancos still have a lot to figure out with their highly talented prospect, especially if they are planning to turn him into a world-beater.