It is three years to the day when Real Madrid sealed a stunning deal to sign Vinicius Junior.
The deal occurred just 10 days after the Brazilian made his first team debut with Flamengo, but Madrid knew what they were doing. They had successfully fought off competition from Barcelona, and completed the transfer of a player who they believed would mark an era at the Santiago Bernabeu.
And the start has been promising to say the least. Vinicius has had an incredible impact in his first two full seasons, impressing head coaches Julen Lopetegui, Santiago Solari and Zinedine Zidane.
So, on the anniversary of the signing, the 19-year old sat down with MARCA to answer some questions:
The pictures you have posted during the quarantine show that you’ve gained muscle and power – what is the purpose behind this change?
“Well, it’s a result of two months of very dedicated and very constant work. Without matches and working consistently and with discipline every day [means that] all your muscles work a lot more and in a more solid way. I don’t think I’ve gained muscle. It makes me feel like we’ve all gained [muscle] because we’ve worked very hard and in a different way to what we’ve down our whole lives.”
What do you have to improve with your game?
“I’ve heard the boss say at times that he learned things until the last training session of his career. I have the same feeling. I’m sure that you can always improve everything. What I want is that I leave Valdebebas every day a bit better than when I arrived.”
Did you find it difficult to settle at Madrid to begin with, and how was your spell with Castilla?
“All changes are big and a change like that was huge for me and my team. My whole world changed completely and people wanted to see a great player straight away – a boy that can’t be affected by anything. But I knew that all big changes need big sacrifices. I was prepared for that, to work in silence, to sacrifice myself without seeing big results straight away. It was very important to keep a cool head.”
What remains of that kid from Flamengo, three years after his move to Madrid was made official?
“My roots and the people that brought me up remain. But Spain brings me the same hunger for football and the same faith in myself. I grew up dreaming about football and now I’m still dreaming about football. My passion hasn’t changed. That passion made me really strong in a difficult world; it’s still fresh, intact and that makes me feel really strong.”
Your brief time with Castilla gave you lots of good things and you soon went up to the first team. Was there more pressure then?
“When you talk about the strengths of a player, you talk about how they play, but a very important factor is always forgotten about and it can change a career – making it a success of a failure. Signing for the best club in the world is what it is; you don’t just have to be good, you have to be good every day, and you’re surrounded by the best in the world. Either you accept it or you don’t get anywhere.”
People speak about your goalscoring and your finishing – does it annoy you?
“It doesn’t annoy me, not at all. I’m the first person to say that you can always improve everything. Always. Until the last day of my career, and that’s what I want to follow my whole life – convinced that I always have to improve! I’m the first person to say that. I became a professional football for that, for respecting my profession. Believing that I no longer have to improve something is lacking respect for my profession. I’m telling you now – it will never happen to me. I have to improve until the final day of my career.”
The temporary suspension of football came at your best spell of the season…
“I felt very settled and I noticed that lots of things that I was trying on the pitch were coming off with a certain ease. I was gaining a good balance between what I tried and what came off.”
Did you have any doubts when you weren’t in the team?
“I didn’t have doubts. Everyone that comes to training thinks that we deserve a place. The boss is in a very difficult position. I can blame bad luck, other things, but I’m very demanding of myself. When I don’t play, I’m just thinking about working hard and showing that I have a place the next day. This is respecting football.”
How many times have you watched the goal against Barcelona back?
“Ahhh, it was a very good goal – a very good pass from Toni [Kroos]. I’ve watched it back a few times, of course, because it was a very important win for our fans. We were really hungry to do something like that.”
Do you think Real Madrid were better than Barcelona in their two LaLiga meetings this season?
“I’ve watched the games again and I think so. I think we were better than them in more aspects. We’ve had very good games until now and we have to recover our best form. We’re really hungry to come back, to win, and we want to win this league title for our fans. People have suffered a lot and we want to give Real Madrid fans something to cheer about in this situation. We know that winning the league isn’t going to be a solution for big tragedies, but it would be something to smile about, something to be happy about.”
There are 11 games to go, 11 finals, in completely different circumstances…
“The result against [Real] Betis was a great shame. Now, we have a mission we can’t fail. We can’t fail and we’re not going to fail.”
You’ll have to be in top condition – are you ready?
“Mate, we may have only returned [to training] 11 days ago, but everyone’s rhythm looks good. We’ve still got lots of group work to do because we can’t do it yet, but all my teammates are very strong and very well. There’s still quite a bit of work left to do, but we’re feeling good.”
Then you’ve got the Champions League afterwards…
“If the Champions League returns, it will be great news not only for football, but for the world. Being able to play games in other countries will be a very positive sign because we’ll be closer to normality. The result of the first leg [against Manchester City] was bad, but we’re Real Madrid. Our obligation is to prepare ourselves well and, if this game comes, when everything is over, every Real Madrid fan can say: they gave everything, we’re proud.”