New Straits Times


RM177 million teenager Vinicius Jr is South American giant’s latest football talent


EVERYONE’S heard of Neymar but now make way for the latest footballin­g diamond from Brazil’s seemingly inexhausti­ble talent mine: Vinicius Junior.

Recruited for US$45 million (RM177 million) by Real Madrid last year, the rising star from Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo has done everything to persuade fans that he really is the next big thing. And he’s only 17.

When the Spanish giant put down that kind of money last May for Vinicius, it looked like a gamble. After all, he’d played just two profession­al games at the time. United States in 1994, even if he didn’t play.

With Neymar now facing an anxious wait to be fit for the finals, Vinicius’s chances might have risen.

Although Brazil coach Tite has not yet called him up, Vinicius has made waves with the national under-17 team.

Brazilian television played a highlight over and over last year —where the youngster tormented Paraguay with three successive flicks over the heads of opponents.

“He’s always been incredibly fast with the ball at his feet, had great technical quality and an unrivalled capacity for improvisat­ion,” said Marcio Torres, who coached him for two years at Flamengo’s under-17s.

This month, Vinicius got his first taste of profession­al silverware when he helped win the Taca Guanabara, the first phase of the regional Rio championsh­ip.

However, apart from great talent, there’s not much similarity between Neymar and Vinicius.

To many, Neymar is something of a spoiled kid, while Vinicius is down to earth. “Even if he has always been the best of the lot, he has never posed the slightest problem. I never saw him even arrive late for training,” said Israel Falcao, in charge of youth players at Flamengo when Vinicius arrived aged 11.

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