In Vinicius’s last European game before the start of his explosion —in the second leg of the semifinals against Chelsea, in the spring of 2021—, the Brazilian could not be sent any further from his natural position: on the right and as a winger . This is how things looked for the left-handed winger in the eyes of Zinedine Zidane on the great nights of the Champions League, well below an already depressed Eden Hazard, but who that day at Stamford Bridge occupied the left wing of the attack by status. That day, Vini’s first pass was to Courtois and he barely lasted an hour on the field, while the Belgian was stretched until the 89th minute despite his obvious inconsequence in the team’s game. At that time, there were only three months left (summer through) for Vini’s career to begin to take an unforeseen turn after the French coach proposed to sell it, as this newspaper reported.
On Monday, in training prior to the duel with Liverpool, Hazard greeted old acquaintances from his time in England who were walking around Anfield. “He is a great guy, nice, he is not like Bale”, they defended the collapsed Belgian star, unprecedented since January 3 against Cacereño and without presence in the league since September.
In those times when the surprise It had not yet occurred, Vinicius was already warning that, for lack of more tact, the best of his catalog was the tiresome insistence. “I am a player who enters with personality, I fail and next time I will go. The defender thinks I’m not going, but I always go. It is the best thing I do ”, he warned after a game with Atalanta, at the beginning of that same 2021, in an attempt to explain himself to the world when no one guessed what would come.
He never stopped going and, this course, he never stopped multiplying his records, especially in the Champions League. If last season, already in the new version of him, he took a shot on goal every 149 minutes in Europe, this time he has lowered the ratio to 33: four times more. The consequence is that with the Anfield double he already has six goals in the Champions League (one every 88 minutes), while the previous year he closed it with four (one every 300 minutes); although as author, yes, of the target of triumph in the final in Paris.
In his prehistory, in those times when Hazard was listed ahead of him and only scored four goals in three courses, he managed to add up to seven games without shooting between the three sticks. Even last season, when his growth was already a matter of study, he also accumulated four games without directly threatening the goalkeeper.
While in Spain his day-to-day life is often caught up in the noise around his relationship with rivals and racist insults from the stands (LaLiga filed two more complaints this Wednesday, one in Mallorca and another in Pamplona, and it has already been eight) , in Europe he has found his garden. “He is the most decisive player in world football. There is no other with the continuity of him ”, Ancelotti highlighted on Tuesday. His double made him the second youngest (22 years and 224 days) in the history of Madrid to score in three consecutive Champions League games after Raúl González (22 years and 163 days).
From tutored to soloist
It is a Vinicius who is already flying free, without the tutoring of a Benzema that has been waning up to now and heavily burdened by physical problems. For the first time after 17 seasons, the Frenchman closed the group stage without scoring and at Anfield he scored his first two goals, his fourth and fifth (this one from the Brazilian’s pass). After 20 minutes, with water up to its neck, the rescue did not come through the French route —as almost always happened last season in the sequence of miraculous comebacks—, but through the winger, who found the saving slot with such a powerful shot as fine, a shot that a year and a half ago was out of his catalogue.
Then, when he was still beginning to show his head in the face of general disbelief, Benzema publicly offered to help him after a long initial period of estrangement and misunderstanding on the pitch. “I believe in him, he is top”, he assured before the general insistence to discover how they began to understand each other. At that time, the Brazilian had to play the French’s score. Now, waiting for when and how the real return nineVinicius acts as the first soloist of a Madrid that almost every day hangs on him, as was made clear again on Tuesday under fire grid.
Two of his goals against Liverpool with Zidane in charge in that spring of 2021 did not help him to escape the coach’s lack of faith. It was not easy either in those times to imagine what happened next. Two years later, his double at Anfield was another nail in his new leadership.
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