Real Madrid splashing the cash is nothing out of the ordinary. Neither is a relatively unknown Brazilian player making the jump to one of Europe’s biggest leagues.
But even by the ludicrous standards the modern game has set of late, the €45 million fee the La Liga champions have forked up for Vinicius Junior is still eye-popping.
Vinicius who? Exactly.
The 16-year-old only began training with Flamengo’s first-team earlier this month, before making his professional debut on May 13. But he was being heavily scouted by some of Europe’s top clubs well before that, with both Manchester United and Barcelona said to have made enquiries.
The fact that Vinicius has been likened to both Neymar and Robinho, only adding to the hype. The comparisons stem from his habit of dropping deep to receive the ball before embarking on skillful, mazy runs, leaving multiple defenders trailing in his wake.
However, the difference between Madrid’s new starlet and both of those players is that already, at the age of 16, the Flamengo youngster has more of a physical presence and has the ability to hold off defenders – although that comes with the caveat that he’s only ever played against defenders his age.
Whether he can replicate that against bigger and more experienced defenders remains to be seen. But he’s definitely not the wiry young kids Neymar and Robinho were in their youth.
Allied with his strength and mesmerising skill are explosive pace and an eye for goal, as his returns at junior tournaments show. He was the top scorer at the South American U-17 championships earlier this year, scoring seven times for Brazil. At that tournament, Vinicius also showed his penchant for scoring from outrageous lobs – including one from an impossibly tight angle.
In general, the youngster’s displays so far suggests that he’s a natural finisher, scoring 19 goals in 22 games at the U-17 level.
Vinicius can play anywhere across the front three, but seems to especially enjoy playing on the left and cutting in – another similarity to Neymar.
He will be eligible to move to Madrid once he turns 18 next July, although some reports suggest the plan is for Vinicius to remain in Brazil for another year after that.
The hope now is that he’ll live up to the Neymar comparisons, or at least replicate the success that Gabriel Jesus has enjoyed so far at Manchester City, rather than flattering to deceive like a host of Brazilian youngsters who made big-money moves to Europe early in their careers.
In any case, now that his transfer has been agreed, there’s no doubt that observers will be following Vinicius’ development with a keener eye.
Real Madrid are the new La Liga Champions but how have Zinedine Zidane’s men rated this term?
Sport360’s Andy West analyses the individual performances of Los Blancos’ title-winning team.
In order to achieve a rating in this article, the following players have had to play at least 1000 minutes in La Liga this term.
Do you agree with our numbers?
KEYLOR NAVAS, GOALKEEPER: 7. Made some costly errors midway through the season but also produced some exceptional saves behind an occasionally leaky defence.
DANI CARVAJAL, RIGHT BACK: 9. A series of outstanding performances from a non-stop dynamo who must rank among the world’s best in his position.
DANILO, RIGHT BACK: 5. A rare disappointment in Madrid’s glittering season, the Brazilian has never looked truly comfortable in the white shirt.
NACHO, DEFENCE: 9. Unheralded and unsung, but the versatile and always willing Spaniard has been his team’s most consistent defender.
PEPE, CENTRE BACK: 6. An injury-disrupted campaign for the veteran, who will move on to pastures new this summer.
SERGIO RAMOS, CENTRE BACK: 8. A typical mix of wholehearted commitment, occasional howlers and frequent goalscoring heroics.
RAPHAEL VARANE, CENTRE BACK: 7. The season which finally saw the classy defender become first choice, but he is still too injury prone.
MARCELO, LEFT BACK: 10. If defenders ever won the Ballon d’Or, this would surely be Marcelo’s year. Inspirational, dynamic and irrepressible.
CASEMIRO, MIDFIELD: 9. With his physicality adding steel to an otherwise lightweight midfield, the Brazilian is the only truly irreplaceable member of the team.
MATEO KOVACIC, MIDFIELD: 7. Hasn’t played as much as he would like, but the young Croat has generally performed well when used.
LUKA MODRIC, MIDFIELD: 8. Aside from a brief dip in the middle of the season, Modric has been a stylish link between defence and attack.
TONI KROOS, MIDFIELD: 9. Oozes class in the centre of the pitch, using his magnificent passing range to great effect and always dangerous with set-piece deliveries.
ISCO, MIDFIELD: 8. Started the season largely overlooked, but has been Real’s best player for the last six weeks, finally fulfilling his immense talent.
JAMES RODRIGUEZ, MIDFIELD: 7. Rarely given opportunities by Zinedine Zidane, but has nearly always impressed when he has played.
LUCAS VASQUEZ, WINGER: 7. Not the squad’s most gifted player but has the heart of a lion and provides a different option from the bench.
MARCO ASENSIO, WINGER: 7. Hardly played in the opening months of the campaign but has recently shown he’s a huge star in the making.
GARETH BALE, FORWARD: 5. Frustrating injury-affected campaign for the Welshman, whose untouchable status at the Bernabeu is now under threat.
ALVARO MORATA, FORWARD: 8. Excellent goalscoring record and will feel he deserves more playing time – but may have to leave to find it.
KARIM BENZEMA, FORWARD: 6. A campaign of ups and downs, occasionally showing his undoubted class but too often going through games invisible.
CRISTIANO RONALDO, FORWARD: 8. Started the season relatively slowly, often contributing little, but has been unstoppable in the last few weeks.
Los Blancos are celebrating their 33rd La Liga title success and here’s five reasons why the Whites got the better of rivals Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane has done a great job to keep everyone pulling in the same direction at a club where that doesn’t always happen.
The Frenchman’s magnetic personality and larger than life reputation ensure he is completely respected by his players, who have accepted their manager’s squad rotations without dissent.
For the first time in a long time, Real Madrid are playing as a unified team and their manager deserves huge credit for creating that environment.
The biggest contrast between Real Madrid and nearest challengers Barcelona has been the depth of talent within the squad.
Whereas several Barca second-choice players like Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez and Lucas Digne have desperately struggled, Zidane can basically pick two completely different teams without suffering any dip in quality.
The fact that Alvaro Morata and Isco have outscored Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema shows how many options Zidane has, and he has used them wisely.
One significant consequence of the excellent team spirit has been Madrid’s ability to rescue games with late goals.
No matter how badly they are playing, Los Blancos possess an unshakeable belief that if they just keep on persisting they will eventually score.
Nobody has epitomised that self-confidence more than captain Sergio Ramos, whose last-gasp heroics have already become legendary. As many teams have discovered to their cost, you can never count Real Madrid out.
Madrid have scored no less than 21 goals from set-piece situations this season, with many of their late rescue acts coming from the familiar route of a pinpoint Toni Kroos delivery being converted by a Ramos header – most importantly, they rescued a point at Barcelona in exactly that manner.
Kroos has finished the season with no less than 12 assists, while 15 goals were scored by defenders.
Midway through the season there were signs that Cristiano Ronaldo was gradually becoming a fading force, with the Portuguese star often passing through games almost unnoticed and reaching January with just ten league goals to his name.
But thanks to Zidane’s rotation policy keeping him fresh he has roared into life in the last few weeks, setting up his team’s title charge with a flurry of goals and looking as good as ever.