Vinicius Junior insists being criticised is to be expected when playing for Real Madrid, who he describes as the biggest club in the world.

The Brazil international has struggled to cement himself as a first-team regular at the Santiago Bernabeu since arriving from Flamengo in 2018.

He has made 53 LaLiga appearances since the start of 2018-19 - 25 of those being starts - and has scored just seven goals and set up one more.

That sees the 20-year-old rank below the likes of Marco Asensio (nine), Lucas Vazquez and Isco (both eight) for goal involvements in an almost identical number of games.

Vinicius has his fair share of critics but says he blocks out the out the opinions of those who do not matter to him.

"I always think about those who want the best for me - family, people at the club, colleagues like Marcelo and Casemiro, the type who put me on the right path," he told YouTube channel Desimpedidos.

"It is all part of being a member of the biggest club in the world. When we lose they talk about us, and when we win it is something else."

Vinicius recently made headlines after Karim Benzema was caught on camera appearing to tell Ferland Mendy not to pass to the young attacker.

Amid suggestions of unrest in the dressing room, though, Vinicius has revealed Benzema is one of his closest friends at Madrid.

"I have a good relationship with Benzema," he said. "Also Lucas Vazquez. I talk a lot with them off the field. There's also [Luka] Modric, who I sit with at lunchtime."

Vinicius made 69 appearances for Flamengo before officially arriving at Madrid and intends to return to his boyhood side one day.

"I am sure that in the very distant future I will head back to Flamengo to give back to the club everything it deserves," he said.

Vinicius Junior earned a recall to the Brazil squad on Friday as head coach Tite explained his intention to rotate his less experienced players. 

After being left out of the team for the opening games of Brazil's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in October, Vinicius returned at the expense of Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo. 

Bruno Guimaraes made way for Arthur, while Rodrigo Caio held onto his spot in the group and Felipe was dropped for Eder Militao, who only made his first appearance of the season for Madrid last weekend. 

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus were included as expected after missing last month's matches through injury, with Santos and Matheus Cunha consequently left out. 

"For the young players it's a matter of process, of maturity in their clubs. [Their selection depends on] the best moment, the degree of confidence they have," said Tite. 

"For this reason, I'll sometimes use Vinicius, Rodrygo, Bruno Guimaraes... 

"[Vinicius] is a player that offers width, goes one on one, has extraordinary physical attributes. Say a normal car has five gears – he has six or seven." 

Brazil sit top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section after wins over Bolivia and Peru in their opening fixtures.

The Selecao are scheduled to entertain Venezuela and travel to Uruguay during the next international break in November.
 

Brazil squad: 

Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Alex Telles (Manchester United), Danilo (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gabriel Menino (Palmeiras), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo Caio (Flamengo), Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Arthur (Juventus), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona); Everton (Benfica), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid). 

Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Ansu Fati headline the final 20-name shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy award.

The prize, presented by Italian newspaper Tuttosport and won by Joao Felix last year, is given to the best player aged 21 or under from a top-tier league in Europe.

Haaland is a leading contender for the accolade after scoring 44 goals across all competitions in 2019-20 – 16 of those coming in 18 appearances after a mid-season move from Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund.

Among all Bundesliga players last season to have scored at least 10 goals, only Robert Lewandowski (81.2) had a better minutes-per-goal record than Haaland (81.7).

His Dortmund team-mate Sancho finished the 2019-20 league campaign with 17 goals and 16 assists, making him the first player since Opta began detailed data collection (2004-05) to register at least 15 in both categories in the same Bundesliga campaign.

The England international's prolific campaign saw him become the youngest player (20 years, two months and six days old) in the history of Germany's top flight to reach 30 career goals.

Despite their impressive numbers, Haaland and Sancho face stiff competition from Fati, who became the third-youngest player (16 years, 304 days old) to find the net in LaLiga history and the youngest of all time in the Champions League (17 years, 40 days).

He finished the season with eight goals in all competitions and has continued his rise this term, netting three times in as many LaLiga games and becoming the youngest player to score for Spain.

Alphonso Davies will also be in contention after establishing himself as one of the top left-backs in the game during Bayern Munich's treble-winning season.

The full 20-man shortlist:

Mitchel Bakker (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), Jonathan David (Lille), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Fabio Silva (Wolves), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Mason Greenwood (Manchester United), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Dominik Szoboszlai (Salzburg), Sandro Tonali (Milan), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Vinicius Junior has paid tribute to Karim Benzema for selflessly taking the young Brazilian under his wing when he first made the move to Real Madrid.

Los Blancos paid a reported €45million for Vinicius in May 2017, the winger joining from Flamengo the following year when he turned 18.

Vinicius has already played 72 times for the club but struggled for consistency despite often catching the eye with his skilful style of play.

He has started 2020-21 in encouraging fashion, however, scoring the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid, before getting the opener in a 2-0 win at Levante last weekend.

That was the first time he had scored in consecutive LaLiga matches, hinting the 20-year-old is beginning to find some continuity alongside Benzema in attack.

And Benzema is regarded particularly fondly by Vinicius for the role he played in his Madrid career.

"Karim is an idol, it is an honour to play with him," Vinicius told RMTV. "We always talk about what I can improve, also how he can help me.

"When I arrived, he did not know me but he still started to help me. He helped, and now he continues to do so, he tells me to be calm and helps me make the best decisions.

"It is a dream to play with Karim and with all the players who are here. I take advantage of all the moments with everyone and I listen a lot because they help.

"They know that I listen a lot and I learn with them."

When Vinicius first joined Madrid, comparisons with former Blanco Robinho were understandable – flashy tricks were a common theme and he often lacked decisiveness in the final third.

But he feels he has matured already and that he is a completely different player.

"I arrived at the age of 18 and having played only in Brazil, so everything was new for me," he added.

"I was learning and I continue to do so to help Madrid. Now I am another player. The people at Madrid help me so that I can help now and in the future.

"I'm very good, very happy with my moment, but also with the team. We have to continue like this, improving the things that we are not doing in this different season because we only had a friendly and it is difficult to start."

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid overcame Levante 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.

After netting the winner against Real Valladolid in midweek, Vinicius scored in successive LaLiga games for the first time in his career.

The Brazilian spurned a couple of chances at the Estadio de la Ceramica to add to his tally after Benzema struck the post early in the second half. Levante also had opportunities – Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar in the first half and Thibaut Courtois twice kept out Enis Bardhi around the hour mark.

But Levante's push for an equaliser was punished in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema and the striker got off the mark this season with an emphatic finish at the end of a fast break.

Madrid moved in front in the 16th minute when a corner fell to Vinicius at the back post and he made the most of not being closed down by bending a delightful effort into the far side of the net.

The champions struggled to create further openings and only the bar stopped Vukcevic restoring parity after he climbed above Nacho Fernandez – deployed at right-back with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola out injured – to get his head on Jose Campana's corner.

Madrid showed greater urgency after the restart and, in the space of four minutes, Benzema struck the base of the post before Vinicius shaved the upright and missed the target from six yards out.

Levante were unperturbed and Bardhi saw a 25-yard thunderbolt parried by Courtois, who then kept out the midfielder's next effort, which took a deflection off Casemiro, with his leg.

Sergio Ramos had a goal ruled out for offside but Madrid put the game beyond doubt when Benzema showed great composure to polish off a swift counter-attack.

 

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid overcame Levante 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.

After netting the winner against Real Valladolid in midweek, Vinicius scored in successive LaLiga games for the first time in his career.

The Brazilian spurned a couple of chances at the Estadio de la Ceramica to add to his tally after Benzema struck the post early in the second half. Levante also had opportunities – Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar in the first half and Thibaut Courtois twice kept out Enis Bardhi around the hour mark.

But Levante's push for an equaliser was punished in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema and the striker got off the mark this season with an emphatic finish at the end of a fast break.

Vinicius Junior felt his introduction alongside Marco Asensio turned Real Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Real Valladolid in the champions' favour.

Brazilian Vinicius grabbed the only goal in Wednesday's 1-0 win after arriving from the bench in the 58th minute.

Madrid had dominated up to that stage, but Luka Jovic – the man Vinicius replaced – missed two big chances and had a third well saved by Roberto.

With Jovic continuing to toil amid reports of interest from Manchester United, Zinedine Zidane turned to his bench and made a triple change, with Dani Carvajal joining Vinicius and Asensio.

Although the pattern of the game did not vastly change, Vinicius found the net and later hailed Zidane's substitutions.

"We are all happy with the game," the 20-year-old said. "The first half was more complicated, but Zidane changed the system in the second.

"He brought Asensio and I on and we were able to change the game."

It was a second straight win for Madrid, although they were similarly made to work hard in a 3-2 success at Real Betis.

"It was a different game from Betis," Vinicius said. "[Valladolid] put a lot of people behind the ball, but the important thing is that we won both games."

Jovic's struggles were further evidence of a slow start for Madrid's attack this season, having drawn 0-0 at Real Sociedad in their LaLiga opener.

But Vinicius is encouraged by the way the team's defence is performing to keep their misfiring team-mates in matches.

"It's the beginning of the season – we haven't play friendlies and we had little time to train," he said.

"We know that if we do not concede, we have many options in attack. We continue working with Zidane to improve up front. The system depends on the players and each opponent."

Vinicius Junior came to Real Madrid's rescue as a sluggish start to their LaLiga season continued with a 1-0 home win over Real Valladolid on Wednesday.

Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Real Sociedad in their opener and then required a late Sergio Ramos penalty to beat Real Betis on Saturday, and a lack of cutting edge threatened to prove costly on their return to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Luka Jovic – a reported Manchester United target – was particularly guilty, missing two golden chances before the break.

Jovic’s frustration was compounded in the second half – his replacement Vinicius on hand to snatch a precious winner to send Madrid level with leaders Getafe.

The frustrating tone was set early as Roberto made an instinctive stop to keep Madrid at bay in the 10th minute, springing to his right to turn Federico Valverde's cushioned volley around the post.

Jovic helped craft that chance, but the former Eintracht Frankfurt man soon squandered a huge opportunity of his own as he inexplicably missed the target when found in front of goal by Valverde.

He was wasteful again 10 minutes before half-time, lashing past the left-hand post following a smart Luka Modric touch.

The Serbia forward saw a header saved by Roberto after the restart, with Casemiro slamming the rebound against the crossbar, with a subsequent chance for Shon Weissman – who was denied by Thibaut Courtois – provoking Zinedine Zidane into a triple-change.

Jovic was among those to make way and the move prompted the opener, with Vinicius profiting on a deflection in the area to finish coolly.

Courtois had to be alert to parry away a wayward Raul Garcia cross, yet Madrid might have added to their lead in the closing stages as Modric exposed Roberto's poor positioning but struck the base of the upright.

What does it mean? Madrid doing just enough

Madrid played some good football in the closing stages of last season as they clinched the title, but they are just getting by in the opening weeks of the new campaign. They were comfortable in terms of possession, enjoying 63 per cent, while they had five shots on target, yet Zidane will hope more straightforward victories are to follow.

Courtois kept busy

The chances that fell Jovic's way could have seen Madrid home and dry by half-time, but with his outfield team-mates wasteful, Courtois had to step up. The Belgium goalkeeper pulled off five saves in all, with each of them coming at crucial ventures, most notably a fine stop from Weissman at 0-0. 

Luka's luck not turning

Jovic may eventually get a second chance at Madrid if he returns from an expected loan move away, but this performance summed up his spell at Los Blanco so far. The 22-year-old has scored just twice in all competitions for Madrid but had three chances to improve that tally here. Only one of his trio of efforts hit the target and he was replaced after 58 minutes. 

What's next?

Madrid are in LaLiga action again on Sunday at Levante, while Valladolid host Eibar a day earlier.

Vinicius Junior has revealed Barcelona were interested in signing him but he opted to join bitter foes Real Madrid after being given just two days to make a decision.

The Brazil international officially arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in July 2018, a year after Madrid agreed a reported £38.7million deal with Flamengo.

He has yet to hit double figures for the club in terms of goals but was on target in March's huge 2-0 win over LaLiga title rivals Barcelona.

However, things could have been a lot different for Vinicius as the winger was offered the chance to join Barca in 2017.

"I had proposals from Barca and Madrid and only had two days to choose," he said in Real Madrid TV documentary 'Campo de Estrellas'.

"I see myself in Madrid for a long time, winning everything and being very successful."

Vinicius, who is rumoured to be a target for Manchester United, remains grateful to former club Flamengo for giving him a platform to showcase his talent. 

"I come from Sao Goncalo, which is a very dangerous place," he said.

"They always helped me when I didn't have money to pay for the academy and they let me train for a long time without paying.

"My father went to work in Sao Paulo so that I would have money to train and play soccer."

Vinicius Junior has been included in Real Madrid's squad to face Deportivo Alaves on Friday.

The Brazilian winger has been in outstanding form for the LaLiga leaders since the season's restart, but his involvement in their next match was in doubt.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane revealed on Thursday that Vinicius had missed training to take a coronavirus test.

An initial test "went badly" - seemingly returning an anomalous result - and had to be repeated, Zidane said.

Madrid offered no update on Vinicius but named the 19-year-old among their 22-man group for the meeting with Alaves.

Zidane's side are a point ahead of Barcelona, who have played a game more.

Vinicius Junior must repeat a COVID-19 test after an apparently anomalous result, Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has revealed.

Zidane was speaking ahead of his team's LaLiga match against Deportivo Alaves on Friday, where Vinicius' participation is now in doubt after a test "went badly".

The 19-year-old sat out training on Thursday and must wait to find out if he will be available to face Alaves.

"The doctors informed me that the test went badly and that we need to repeat it," said Zidane, who will be without Luka Jovic after the forward was forced to self-isolate due to coming into contact with a friend who contracted COVID-19.

When he was asked to clarify whether "badly" might mean Vinicius had tested positive for coronavirus, he replied: "Sometimes there are errors. That can happen.

"Whenever something like that happens, the player can't train. I hope it's nothing and that he can be with us for Friday's game.

"We'll have his results this afternoon."

Even if Vinicius is forced to sit out, Eden Hazard will be available as Madrid seek a victory that would give them a four-point advantage over Barcelona with three games remaining.

The Belgium playmaker was absent from the back-to-back 1-0 wins over Getafe and Athletic Bilbao and has had his debut season in the Spanish capital ruined by a broken foot.

"It is not a relapse and he has trained with us normally," Zidane said.

"I hope he will be with us in the four remaining games and then in the Champions League.

"He wants to be with us and he is not afraid, but it is the third relapse and it bothers him a little.

"There are people here who know much more than me and the image [X-ray] comes out clean, it is perfect, but the discomfort is normal after a game or strong training.

"He is not afraid and wants to help the team and tomorrow he will be with us "

Marcelo faces a scan on an unspecified complaint, but Raphael Varane is set to return at centre-back after recovering from concussion.

"We haven't won anything," Zidane said, when confronted with his team's strong position heading into the final stretch.

"Four games are remaining and tomorrow is another final.

"I am sorry to repeat myself, but there is no other choice. What we want is to continue with what we are doing."

Vinicius Junior lauded Eden Hazard and said it was easy to play alongside the attacker in Real Madrid's 2-0 LaLiga win over Real Mallorca.

A fine finish from Vinicius and Sergio Ramos' brilliant second-half free-kick saw Madrid climb back above rivals Barcelona and to the top of the LaLiga table.

Vinicius was happy with his performance and also talked up his combination with Hazard, with the pair starting together in Madrid.

"I am very happy with today's match. We have worked a lot at home to get to our best version," the forward said, via the club's website.

"As for me, I think I'm the same as before the break, but it's true that I worked a lot at home to be physically well.

"This is like a World Cup with few games and we have to be focused from the beginning. I always try to improve in all aspects. The coaching staff always helps me a lot to improve and I want to continue evolving at Real Madrid.

"Hazard is easy to play [with] because he is a great player and today was the first time that [Zinedine] Zidane has brought us together. It went very well."

Madrid extended their winning streak to four since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, staying on track to win the LaLiga title.

Vinicius said it was important for the whole squad to be ready when called upon by head coach Zidane.

"We are all ready to enter the field when Zidane decides and we will do our best. We have the best players on the field," he said.

"We are going to do our best to win the remaining seven finals. We have won four and we are going for the league."

Madrid continue their campaign with a trip to Espanyol on Sunday.

Real Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga thanks to a 2-0 defeat of Real Mallorca at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium on Wednesday.

Barca's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao 24 hours earlier had put the pressure back on Zinedine Zidane's men, but Vinicius' goal after 19 minutes steadied any nerves within the home side.

Mallorca, who sit third from bottom of the table, gave a spirited account of themselves but rarely looked likely to claim a share of the spoils despite Madrid having made four changes from the 2-1 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane elected to start Vinicius, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale in support of Karim Benzema but it was captain Sergio Ramos who made the win safe with an exceptional free-kick early in the second half.

Vinicius might have been a surprise starter but he justified Zidane's call 19 minutes in, steering a finish high past Manolo Reina after a clever reverse pass from Luka Modric.

The Brazilian hit the bar with a lob from a Karim Benzema throughball four minutes later, but it was Mallorca who threatened more as the half went on, even though Thibaut Courtois' goal was largely well protected.

Madrid took control with a second goal 10 minutes into the second half, Ramos curling a fine free-kick into the top-left corner from just outside the penalty area.

Mallorca did not lose heart at least and threatened through Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo, who saw a shot hit the side-netting after one impressive run through the box.

The visitors remain three points from safety and at serious risk of relegation, but they did at least make a moment of LaLiga history when Luka Romero came off the bench to become the youngest player ever to play in the competition at the age of 15 years and 219 days.

 

What does it mean? Zidane's side taking shape for double charge

Madrid are back on top of the table above Barcelona on their head-to-head record and appear to be in good shape after the lockdown.

Zidane changed the system and personnel but was still rewarded with a strong performance. That sort of adaptability bodes well for their title challenge, and the return of the Champions League in August.

Vinicius on a mission

Having gone through a difficult spell this season, Vinicius looks determined to become a mainstay in Zidane's plans.

He scored one good goal, almost got a second and pressed across the front in the second half to keep the Mallorca defence worried.

No lucky break for Bale

Bale got out of Vincius' way to let his team-mate open the scoring and it was his most useful contribution of the game.

It was more a disinterested performance than a poor one, but certainly was not one to make his coach think he merits a regular place in the first XI.

What's next?

Madrid head to Espanyol on Sunday, with Mallorca facing Athletic Bilbao at San Mames a day earlier.

Vinicius Junior said Real Madrid want to win LaLiga for their fans following the coronavirus pandemic.

LaLiga has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 crisis, though the league is hoping to resume in June.

Madrid were two points behind defending champions and bitter rivals Barcelona through 27 matches at the time of postponement.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc in Spain and across the globe, and Madrid star Vinicius wants to give Los Blancos supporters something to smile about.

"I've watched the games again and I think so. I think we were better than them in more aspects," Vinicius told Marca when asked if he thought Madrid were better than Barca in their two LaLiga meetings this season.

"We've had very good games until now and we have to recover our best form. We're really hungry to come back, to win, and we want to win this league title for our fans. People have suffered a lot and we want to give Real Madrid fans something to cheer about in this situation.

"We know that winning the league isn't going to be a solution for big tragedies, but it would be something to smile about, something to be happy about."

There were 11 matches remaining in the 2019-20 season and Vinicius added: "The result against [Real] Betis [2-1 loss was a great shame. Now, we have a mission we can't fail. We can't fail and we're not going to fail."

"We may have only returned [to training] 11 days ago, but everyone's rhythm looks good," he continued. "We've still got lots of group work to do because we can't do it yet, but all my team-mates are very strong and very well. There's still quite a bit of work left to do, but we're feeling good."

Madrid had also lost 2-1 to Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 tie before the season came to a halt.

The Champions League could return in August and Brazilian forward Vinicius said: "If the Champions League returns, it will be great news not only for football, but for the world. Being able to play games in other countries will be a very positive sign because we'll be closer to normality.

"The result of the first leg [against Manchester City] was bad, but we're Real Madrid. Our obligation is to prepare ourselves well and, if this game comes, when everything is over, every Real Madrid fan can say: they gave everything, we're proud."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane hailed his players for regrouping from their Champions League collapse by upstaging Barcelona in the LaLiga El Clasico.

Pressure was on Madrid following their 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City in the opening leg of the Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Madrid conceded twice in five minutes during the final 12 minutes in a stunning finish against City, however, Zidane's side bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Barca on Sunday.

Vinicius Junior and substitute Mariano Diaz scored in the second half at the Santiago Bernabeu as Madrid leapfrogged defending champions Barca atop the LaLiga table.

Zidane expressed his pride post-match, telling reporters: "The reaction today has been important. The dressing room is not touched. It was a complicated week, but we prepared this game well. That means the players are in and want.

"We played 78 very good minutes and in the end we lost. Today we win playing well from start to finish. We need to stick to what we believe, but we know that it will be hard until the very end. We need to prove ourselves every time we play."

"We deserved the victory because of everything we did both defensively and offensively," Zidane added. "The first half was even and our press up front was not perfect. In the second half we improved our press and we were better up top.

"We really pushed them hard and almost overwhelmed them. These are three important points because it has been a difficult week and today we had the opportunity to change that. It's three points and we regained the lead, but we're going to have to fight to the end.

"We're happy because we've all shown that we've done very well and I'm proud of them because it's not easy to win like this. Our strength today was very important. The first thing is to defend well together and then we know that at any moment we can have opportunities to score goals.

"The second half was ours. We had a lot of chances to score and we netted twice. We kept a clean sheet and [Thibaut] Courtois was instrumental in that. We won the game as a team today."

Vinicius – at the age of 19 years and 233 days – became the youngest Clasico goalscorer this century, surpassing Barca superstar Lionel Messi with his 71st-minute opener before Mariano completed the win in stoppage time.

"Vinicius was good and he scored an important goal in an important game. I'm happy for him. He was good offensively and defensively he did a great job helping Marcelo with [Nelson] Semedo," Zidane said.

"He has conditions, but he is very young and sometimes the criticism is difficult. He has to live with that because he is at Real Madrid."

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