from the critics of Benzema to the status of “best player in the world”… The unexpected metamorphosis of Vinicius

Irregular when he arrived at Real Madrid in 2018, Vinicius honed his game and took advantage of the advice of Karim Benzema and Carlo Ancelotti to become one of the most dangerous forwards on the continent.

Gone are the days when Karim Benzema could get angry in the middle of a match against Vinicius’ performance. “He does what he wants. Brother, don’t play with him! My mother’s life plays against us”“KB9” had complained to Ferland Mendy, about his Brazilian teammate, at half-time of the Champions League match between Real Madrid and Borussia Mönchengladbach in October 2020. Two and a half years later, Benzema has nothing left to say on Vinicius level.

The Brazilian international will be Real Madrid’s main offensive weapon in the C1 semi-final second leg against Manchester City on Wednesday 17 May, after scoring in the first leg (1-1) with a splendid shot from outside the field. Last year it was he who offered the 14th Champions League in the history of Real, scoring the only goal in the final at the Stade de France against Liverpool (1-0). Sign of the stature acquired by Vinicius for a year and a half.

Vinicius is currently the best player in the world.”, Carlo Ancelotti, Real manager, tried in March after his team qualified against Liverpool. “Currently”, the term is important, because putting Vinicius in front of Kylian Mbappé, for example, Ancelotti got wet. He has received the endorsement of Jürgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool: “I confirm, Vinicius is a world-class player and already a Real Madrid legend, despite his young age.”

Karim the older brother

However, it was not won. Benzema’s October 2020 rage was nothing out of the ordinary and reflected the disappointment of Madrid fans with Vinicius. The Brazilian had landed in Madrid two years earlier with the label of a very promising youngster, bought by the Merengues against 45 million euros before he was even 18 years old. But his debut with Real are not idyllic.

Vinicius is undeniably gifted with immense talent, but he doesn’t use it wisely. The Brazilian runs fast, dribbles better than anyone else but his individualism and his clumsiness in the last move are not faulted. The Flamengo-trained player also has to adapt to his new environment. “The pressure was too much. I’ve never seen so much pressure on such a young player. I don’t know why, maybe because I cost a lot of money”he explained to the Brazilian channel TNT Sports in October 2021.

Three factors, among others, will cause the metamorphosis of “Vini”: Benzema takes him under his wing, Ancelotti returns to Real and the Brazilian is above all described as a great worker. The French striker gives him lots of advice. “He goes out of his way to help me on and off the pitch. (…) From the very beginning he has always supported me and made me trust”said Vinicius in an interview with UEFA in February 2022.

The future of Real with compatriot Rodrygo

First worried, Benzema describes the Brazilian’s metamorphosis on the pitch better than anyone else. “I showed him things, especially in the last 20 metres. He has to decide for himself, cross for an assist, not for nothing, or shoot to score. He raises his head, looks ahead. He started it. Today, here he is, it’s Vinicio”explained the Ballon d’Or to France Football in January 2022.

The arrival of Ancelotti on the Real bench in the summer of 2021 completes the transformation. Real management are calling on the Italian coach to rejuvenate the Madrid club’s aging workforce. “Il Mister” aims to allow Vinicius to permanently update its software. “You just have to play him and give him the confidence he deserves because he plays very well.”explained Ancelotti at the start of the 2021-2022 season.

Real Madrid's two Brazilian players, Rodrygo and Vinicius, during their Champions League quarter-final match against Chelsea at the Santiago-Bernabeu stadium on April 12, 2023. (JOSE BRETON / AFP)

Author of 22 goals and 20 assists last year, Vinicius is Real Madrid’s most decisive player this season with 23 goals and 21 assists. In his wake, Madrid have seen the emergence of Rodrygo, another young Brazilian. So much so that Ancelotti considers the Rodrygo-Benzema-Vinicius trio”looks a lot like the BBC (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano Ronaldo)”. Promising for the future, but above all worrying for Manchester City in the immediate future.

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