Brazil’s FIFA 2022 footballer Vinicius Junior one of the best
Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior, commonly known as Vinicius Junior or Vini Jr. is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a winger for the Brazil national team and La Liga club Real Madrid. He is considered as one of the best wingers in the world and is well known for his dribbling skills, high pace, and playmaking.
His career statistics include 42 goals in 176 appearances at League matches. At National Cup he has 22 appearances and five goals. At Continental level he has scored fifteen goals in his fifty-two appearances. With additional five goals in 22 other games, his total tally of goals stands at 67 in 272 appearances.
In his international career, he has scored two goals in his 20 appearances. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Chile on March 24, 2022, he scored a goal and followed it with another goal on December 5, 2022 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup against South Korea.
Birth and Growth
Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior was born on July 12, 2000, in Sao Goncalo in Brazil. In this Portuguese name, the first or maternal family name is Paixao and the second or paternal family name is de Oliveira. “Júnior” is a generational suffix used for someone whose name is the same as their father, like “Jr.” in English. He is a Catholic.
Vinicius began his professional career at Flamengo, where he made his senior debut in 2017, at age 16. A few weeks later, Vinicius was the subject of a transfer to La Liga club Real Madrid, for whom he signed for in a £38 million deal, which was a national record for an Under 18 player. The transfer was made effective after his 18th birthday, with Vinicius debuting for the club in 2018 – 2019.
By his fourth season, Vinicius had established himself as a prominent member in Real Madrid’s squad, helping the club win the 2021 – 2022 La Liga title and scoring the winning goal in Real Madrid’s 2022 UEFA Champions League final win.
Vinicius Junior’s football career began in the year 2006, when his father took him to the branch offices of Flamengo, in the neighbourhood of Mutua, in Sao Goncalo where he lived. His club document described him as a left-back.
Hailing from a poor family, Vinicius went to live in Abolicao with his uncle, Ulisses, to shorten the distance to Ninho do Urubu (the “Vultures’ Nest”). He started to receive financial aid from Flamengo as well as aid from entrepreneurs.
Between 2007 and 2010, Vinicius attended futsal classes at Flamengo’s school in Sao Goncalo at the Canto do Rio, a famous club located in the centre of Niteroi. In 2009, when Vinicius was nine, he took a futsal trial for Flamengo.
The club noted his potential, but given his young age, he was asked to come back the following year. However, he decided he wanted to play football, not futsal, and did not return. In August 2010, Vinicius passed his football tests at Flamengo.
His favourite footballers are Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Cristiano Ronaldo. On September 2, 2022, Vinicius acquired Spanish citizenship, making him of dual-nationality. He is five feet and 9 inches in height and 73 kgs. Vinicius is dating his sweet girlfriend Maria Julia Mazalli.
Shortly after his arrival at Real Madrid in July 2018, ESPN journalist Dermot Corrigan described Vinicius as a “zippy left winger or second striker.” A versatile player, although he is usually deployed on the left flank, he is capable of playing anywhere along the front line and has also been used on the right or in the centre.
Possessing explosive acceleration, and excellent pace, agility, balance, technique, flair, dribbling skills, and close control at speed, as well as significant power, physical strength, and trickery on the ball, despite his slender build, he is known for his movement, energy, ability to run at defences, change direction quickly, and beat opponents in one on one situations while in possession of the ball.
Regarded as a promising young player, he is considered to be a diminutive, dynamic, intelligent, hard-working, and nimble winger, with a low centre of gravity, as well as impressive passing and awareness. Moreover, he is known in for his eye for the final ball, and ability to provide assists to teammates; although he is also capable of scoring goals himself, his shooting and goal scoring have been cited by pundits as areas in need of improvement, as his lack of end product was often a source of criticism in the media in his first few seasons at Real Madrid.
In June 2017, Vinicius appeared at 39th place on The Telegraph’s list of the best under 21 players in the world. He was the only player playing in South America at the time to appear on the list.
In November 2018, former Argentina international front man Jose Luis Calderon credited Vinicius’ “general enthusiasm, his ability to make things happen, the joy and good vibrations he transmits, his speed, the fact he’s different and the fact he’s daring. To sum up, he has a spark that could be used by a team that has been plain in recent matches.”
In his youth with Flamengo, he was criticized, however, by several football figures, fans, and the press for “doing too many tricks,” and for “too much individualism, not enough teamwork.”
During the 2021 – 2022 season, Vinicius had a breakthrough season with Real Madrid, and his goal scoring and assist output increased dramatically, enabling him to form an effective offensive partnership from the left wing with striker Karim Benzema.
Regarding his change in form, Vinicius commented in December 2021: “I think I’ve improved in many things, but above all in my calmness in my play, I’m doing things with more tranquillity and more quality too.”
The club’s manager Carlo Ancelotti also praised him for his defensive work-rate and positioning, in addition to his creative abilities and talent, noting that he was able to improve upon his tactical knowledge and physical condition throughout the course of the season, as well as his finishing. His performances led the Spanish press to compare him to compatriot Neymar.
Following his goal in Real Madrid’s victory in the 2022 Champions League final, Neymar himself described Vinicius as “the best player in the world.” Later that month, Ed McCambridge of Four Four Two ranked Vinicius as the second-best left winger in the world.
On October 30, 2015, Vinicius Junior was called up for Brazil by coach Guilherme Dalla Dea for the South American Under 15 Championship. Vinicius and Brazil won the Under 15 title and he was the 2nd top-scorer of the tournament with seven goals.
He was named player of the tournament and continued to perform which helped him convince Flamengo to sign him by the age of 16. On June 24, 2016, Vinicius was called up for a friendly against Chile Under 17 and scored two goals and provided two assists in the 4-2 victory.
In March 2017, Vinicius debuted in the South American Under 17 Championship for Brazil with a goal in a 3-0 victory over Peru. In the final stage, he scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Ecuador and two goals in a 3-0 victory over Colombia, securing Brazil’s place in the 2017 FIFA Under 17 World Cup in India, where Brazil, without Vinicius Junior, eventually would finish third.
After leading Brazil to win the South American Under 17 Championship, Vinicius Junior was named the tournament’s best player and was top goal-scorer with seven goals. On February 28, 2019, Vinicius was called up to the Brazil national team for the first time for friendlies against Panama and the Czech Republic. However, he suffered an injury while playing for Real Madrid, and David Neres was called up in his place in March.
In May, he was excluded from Brazil’s final 23-man squad for the 2019 Copa America by manager Tite. He made his senior international debut on September 10, 2019 as a 72nd-minute substitute in Brazil’s 1-0 defeat to Peru.
Vinicius was named in Brazil’s 2021 Copa America squad by Tite on June 9, 2021, which would be held on home soil. He made a substitute appearance in his nation’s 1-0 defeat to rivals Argentina in the final on July 10.
In the Brazil national football team, he has played with Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus, Danilo, Fred, Fabinho, Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta, Guilherme Arana, Philippe Coutinho, Eder Militao, Alex Telles, Alison Becker, Alex Sandro, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Ederson and Neymar Jr.
FIFA World Cup 2022
On March 24, 2022, Vinicius scored his debut goal for the national team, in a 4-0 home win over Chile in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification match at the Maracana Stadium.
On November 7, 2022, Vinicius was named in the Brazil squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup by Tite. In the opening group match against Serbia on November 24, he set-up Richarlison’s second goal to help Brazil to a 2-0 victory.
He scored his first FIFA World Cup goal in a 4 – 1 win against South Korea in the round of 16 on December 5, 2022 also setting up Lucas Paqueta’s goal, helping Brazil qualify for the quarterfinals, where they were eliminated by Croatia four days later following a 4-2 penalty shoot-out loss after a 1-1 draw.
Vinicius debuted for Flamengo on May 13, 2017 as an 82nd-minute substitute in a Brazilian Serie A 1-1 draw against Atletico Mineiro. Two days later he extended his contract with the club from 2019 until 2022, with a significant salary increase and a buyout clause increase from €30 million to €45 million.
This contract renewal was reported as being part of the transfer process of Vinicius to Real Madrid, an agreement reached between the two clubs in Gavea that week with an obligation to sell the young player in July 2018.
On August 10, 2017, Vinicius scored the first professional goal of his career in a Copa Sudamericana second round leg 2 match against Palestino in a 5-0 win for Flamengo. He scored one goal, 30 seconds after being substituted on in the 72nd minute. On August 19, 2017 he scored his first Brazilian Serie A goals for Flamengo, in a 2-0 win against Atletico Goianiense.
On May 23, 2017, Spanish club Real Madrid signed a contract to acquire Vinicius, effective after his 18th birthday on July 12, 2018, as age 18 is the minimum age for international transfer. He transferred for a reported fee of €46 million, which was at the time, the second most expensive sale of a player in the history of Brazilian football (behind only Neymar), the largest amount received by a Brazilian club for a transfer, and the highest amount ever paid by a club for a footballer under the age of 19. He was originally scheduled to return to Brazil on loan in July 2018.
On July 20, 2018, he was officially presented as a Real Madrid player. He was issued squad number 28. He made his debut on September 29, coming in as an 87th minute substitute in a goalless draw against Atletico Madrid. Vinicius made his first start on October 31, in a 4 – 0 Copa del Rey away victory against Melilla, contributing with assists for both Marco Asensio and Alvaro Odriozola in what Marca recognized as a Man of the Match performance.
He scored his first goal on November 3, ten minutes after coming on as a substitute in a 2 – 0 victory against Real Valladolid. He scored four goals between his debut on September 29, and February 7, 2019. On March 6, he tore a ligament during a loss to Ajax, which ended his season.
On December 11, 2019, he scored his first UEFA Champions League goal in a 3-1 away win over Club Brugge in the 2019 – 2020 season. On March 1, 2020, he scored the first goal in a 2-0 win for Real in El Clasico against Barcelona. He made twenty-nine appearances during the league season, while scoring three goals, as Real Madrid won the 2019 – 2020 La Liga.
On April 6, 2021, Vinicius scored two goals in a 3-1 win against Liverpool in the first leg of the 2020 – 2021 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Real Madrid would advance to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Chelsea.
UEFA Champions League Title
Vinicius started the 2021 – 2022 season by scoring Real Madrid’s fourth goal in a 4-1 away victory over Alaves on the opening day of the La Liga campaign. On August 22, he scored a brace in a 3-3 draw against Levante coming off the bench, which earned him a first-team place, ahead of Eden Hazard. On October 30, he scored twice as Real Madrid won 2-1 at Elche to go top of the La Liga table.
The goals were his sixth and seventh of the league season and his eighth and ninth overall, surpassing his total output of six goals in all competitions during the 2020 – 2021 season in just 14 matches. On May 12, 2022, he scored his first hat-trick for Real Madrid in a 6-0 victory over Levante. On May 28, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final to clinch Madrid their record 14th UEFA Champions League title.
Vinicius ended the 2021 – 2022 season as Real Madrid’s second-best goal scorer with twenty-two goals in all competitions, only behind his attacking partner Karim Benzema. He was also named the inaugural Champions League young player of the season by UEFA.
Honours and Achievements
His individual honours include Copa Sao Paulo Football Junior Best Left-Winger in 2017; South American Under 17 Championship Best Player in 2017; La Liga Player of the Month in November 2021; UEFA Champions League Team of the Season 2021 – 2022; UEFA Champions League Young Player of the Season in 2021 – 2022; La Liga Team of the Season in 2021 – 2022.
At Real Madrid he won: La Liga in 2019 – 2020 and 2021 – 2022; Supercopa de Espana in 2019 – 2020 and 2021 – 2022; UEFA Champions League in 2021 – 2022; UEFA Super Cup in 2022; FIFA Club World Cup in 2018.
His other achievements include South American Under 15 Championship in 2015; South American Under 17 Championship in 2017; BRICS Under 17 Football Cup in 2016.
(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])