Despite losing their long-term captain Sergio Ramos and veteran of four Champions League finals Raphael Varane, if there’s one difference between Real Madrid this year and last, it’s the development of Vinicius Junior.
The Brazilian winger was always clearly talented, but had struggled to put it all together at times. Last year he scored 6 goals in total and provided 7 assists, compared with 22 goals this time round and 20 assists. It should be pointed out that he has played over 1500 minutes more this season, although those minutes were earned this season. The production has more than tripled and dragged Real Madrid through some tricky moments.
After the Champions League final, manager Carlo Ancelotti was asked how he explained this leap in performance.
“With Vinicius the only thing in which I have helped him is giving him the confidence that he needed. He didn’t play at the start after his holidays and later he played all the time.”
There was only one clear change according to Ancelotti, as relayed by Mundo Deportivo.
“Where he has improved is the effectiveness in front of goal, he hasn’t changed any of the rest. Another year with [Karim] Benzema has helped him. I’m happy because he has put the cherry on the cake. He has had a fantastic season and a great final.”
While Ancelotti may not think it much, giving Vinicius that confidence has been a large part of Real Madrid’s success. Where the Italian manager comes across simple things that he’s done to help the team, many other managers find hard challenges, unable to inspire their players in the same way.
David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images