from Benzema critics to ‘best player in the world’ status… Vinicius’ unexpected metamorphosis

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

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

The Brazilian international will be the main offensive weapon of Madrid in the semi-final second leg of the C1 against Manchester City, Wednesday May 17, after scoring in the first leg (1-1) with a splendid strike from outside the surface. Last year, it was he who offered the 14th Champions League in Real history by 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.”had judged in March Carlo Ancelotti, the coach of Real, after the qualification of his team against Liverpool. “Currently”the term is important, because by placing Vinicius in front of Kylian Mbappé, for example, Ancelotti got wet. He received the endorsement of Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager: “I confirm, Vinicius is a world-class player and already a Real Madrid legend, despite his young age.”

Karim the big brother

However, it was not won. Benzema’s anger of October 2020 was nothing out of the ordinary and reflected Madrid fans’ disappointment over 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 beginnings with Real are not idyllic.

Vinicius is undeniably endowed with immense talent, but does not use it wisely. The Brazilian runs fast, dribble better than anyone but does not sin his individualism and his clumsiness in the last gesture. The player trained in Flamengo must also adapt to his new environment. “The pressure was too much. I had 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 huge hard worker. The French striker gives him lots of advice. “He does everything he can to help me on and off the pitch. (…) From the start, he always supported me and made me gain confidence”specified Vinicius in an interview with UEFA in February 2022.

The future of Real with his compatriot Rodrygo

First concerned, Benzema describes better than anyone the metamorphosis of the Brazilian on the ground. “I showed him things, especially in the last 20 meters. He must make the decision himself, cross for the assist, not for nothing, or shoot to score. He raises his head, he looks ahead. He started it. Today, here it is, it’s Vinicius”explained the Ballon d’Or to Soccer France in January 2022.

The arrival of Ancelotti on the Madrid bench in the summer of 2021 completes the transformation. The management of Real asks the Italian coach to rejuvenate the aging workforce of the Madrid club. “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 the Champions League quarter-final 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, this season, the most decisive player of Real Madrid with 23 goals and 21 assists. In its wake, Real saw Rodrygo, another young Brazilian, emerge. 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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