Vini­cius Real saviour?

Young Brazil­ian a breath of fresh air in a strug­gling side.

The Citizen (KZN) - - SPORT - Madrid

Real Madrid have made a gloomy start to the new year, but as the floun­der­ing Euro­pean cham­pi­ons pre­pare for a dif­fi­cult trip to Real Betis to­mor­row, hope has ar­rived in the un­likely fig­ure of teenager Vini­cius Jr.

With Gareth Bale, Marco Asen­sio and Karim Ben­zema all fail­ing to fill the gap­ing hole left by Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s de­par­ture to Ju­ven­tus, the 18-year-old Brazil­ian who be­gan the sea­son toil­ing in Spain’s third di­vi­sion with Madrid’s re­serve side has un­ex­pect­edly turned into a fig­ure of in­spi­ra­tion.

Real started the year by draw­ing with Vil­lar­real and los­ing to Real So­ciedad, fall­ing to the un­fa­mil­iar po­si­tion of fifth in La Liga, an em­bar­rass­ing 10 points be­hind lead­ers Barcelona.

But Vini­cius gave a sparsely-at­tended San­ti­ago Bern­abeu something to be­lieve in on Wed­nes­day with a stun­ning dis­play in a 3-0 win over Le­ganes in the Copa del Rey, bring­ing fans to their feet with a spec­tac­u­lar vol­ley which rounded off the scor­ing.

“Hope is called Vini­cius,” raved Span­ish news­pa­per Marca, and the Brazil­ian was also lauded by his coach and team-mates.

“Vini­cius trans­mits joy, he has al­ways had ta­lent, but to show it at the Bern­abeu speaks vol­umes of his abil­ity,” said coach San­ti­ago So­lari, who has faced fierce crit­i­cism for Real’s limp start to 2019.

“He is brave, he takes play­ers on and de­stroys de­fences in a way we see less and less these days.”

Vini­cius was signed by Real from Fla­mengo for €40 mil­lion but was seen as a fu­ture prospect and was barely given a chance by So­lari’s pre­de­ces­sor Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked in Oc­to­ber.

“If he con­tin­ues like he is now and sur­rounds him­self with peo­ple who sup­port him, he will have a huge fu­ture,” added Real de­fender Na­cho.

“He still has to work hard, but he is demon­strat­ing he is a spec­tac­u­lar player.”

With seven play­ers in­clud­ing Bale, Asen­sio and Toni Kroos un­avail­able due to in­jury or sus­pen­sion, Vini­cius is al­most cer­tain to start against Betis, a game Real badly need to win to kick-start their bid to re­turn to the top four and en­sure they qual­ify for next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League.

Betis, who are four points and one place be­hind Madrid, are of the most at­trac­tive sides in the league and be­came the first team in over two years to beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Barca, who have stretched their lead over near­est chal­lengers Atletico Madrid at the top of the ta­ble to five points, host Eibar to­mor­row, while Atletico en­ter­tain Le­vante and third-placed Sevilla make the trip to Ath­letic Bil­bao. –

Pic­ture: Getty Images

VINI­CIUS JU­NIOR

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