Vinícius has gone from decorating games to deciding them for Real Madrid

It was the kind of moment that takes your breath away. Vinícius took the ball on his chest on the left touchline, cushioning it in a way that gave him the space to immediately push inside past Lucas Ocampos and then Gonzalo Montiel, the tenacious Argentine duo that had kept him under control throughout the preceding 87 minutes, before letting rip and sending the ball into the top right corner of the net, past Bono.

The Brazilian then wheeled away triumphantly, before celebrating at the corner flag with a joyful little dance that paid homage to his roots back in Rio de Janeiro. He then pointed to the Santiago Bernabéu turf, as if to reassure his supporters and calm them down. Vinícius is here, was his message. He’s going to deliver and he’s no longer here just to decorate games. He’s here to decide them.

Because for a long time he hasn’t been. The 21-year-old provided three goals and five assists in 35 La Liga appearances last season, and three goals and two assists in the 29 La Liga appearances the campaign before that. This season, he already has nine goals and three assists in 15 La Liga appearances. That’s a genuinely remarkable improvement. 

And last Sunday night’s game, the one he decided with his moment of magic in the dying minutes, was a tough one for Real Madrid. Sevilla went into the game in the knowledge that victory would see them leapfrog both Madrid and Atlético Madrid and end the weekend top of the league table, establishing their credentials as serious title contenders in the process. 

The Andalusian side took the lead on the night through Rafa Mir, the robust centre-forward who led their line. He powered a header past Thibaut Courtois in the 12th minute to underline a strong start to the game for Sevilla, one that also saw Ocampos rattle the crossbar from just outside the box. Madrid, however, got back on level terms shortly after the half-hour mark through Karim Benzema. Éder Militão’s speculative shot from distance was spilled by the usually reliable Bono, and Benzema was quick to pounce on the loose ball and get his team back on level terms.

After that, with every minute that passed it seemed more and more likely that the home side were going to find a way to win the game. Sevilla made a couple of poorly thought-out substitutions and lost control of the match as the second half wore on, dropping deeper and deeper until Vinícius eventually made them pay.

The result leaves Madrid top of La Liga, four points clear of Atlético and Real Sociedad and five clear of Sevilla. It also made clear that, in Benzema and Vinícius, Madrid probably have the two best players in Spanish football right now. The former has learned how to hit this level toward the end of his career. Vinicus has seemingly learned how to hit this level at the tender age of 21. And that’s an exciting prospect.

Tags La Liga Real Madrid Sevilla Vinicius