Home » Is Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior surpassing PSG’s Neymar as Brazil’s best forward?

Is Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior surpassing PSG’s Neymar as Brazil’s best forward?

by News all Today
Is Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior surpassing PSG’s Neymar as Brazil’s best forward?

The minute Paris St-Germain sporting director Leonardo heard about it, he grabbed his phone and called Neymar right away.

Like everyone else, he was surprised to find out through an interview aired by DAZN in October that his 222m euros star sees this year’s World Cup as “his last one”, stating he doesn’t know if he has “the strength of mind to deal with football any more”.

Only a few months earlier, the parties had been celebrating a contract renewal until 2025. Leonardo had to check what his compatriot really meant by his comments.

Neymar’s entourage rushed to clarify his concerns, blaming DAZN for allegedly taking the comment out of context.

However, speaking to Brazil legend Ronaldo on a Twitch stream last month, the number 10 again discussed his retirement plans.

“I joke with my friends that I will retire when I’m 32. But it’s just a joke. I don’t know. Honestly, I will play until I’m mentally tired,” he said.

Neymar and Vinicius Jr
Vinicius Junior (left) and Neymar (right) celebrate a goal for Brazil against Colombia in November

Such interviews have bolstered the impression that, despite having only recently turned 30, Neymar may be already past his best and not enjoying football as much as he once did.

They have also added more fuel to this Wednesday’s Champions League game between Real Madrid and PSG at the Bernabeu.

With Real sensation Vinicius Junior in the form of his life, having netted 16 goals this season – more than all his three first campaigns combined – there is a growing school of thought that he might be on the way to taking over from Neymar as Brazil’s leading man in Europe.

The stats certainly support that notion, but it remains to be seen whether Vinicius can surpass his biggest idol. Real trail 1-0 from the first leg, will Vinicius be able to help his side overturn the deficit to advance to the quarter-finals.

Is Vinicius ready for it?

Once described by El Mundo newspaper as “a winger unable to make his legs and feet move in unison”, 21-year-old Vinicius has hit another level this season under Carlo Ancelotti.

The boy who was the source of countless memes for his lack of final product has since blossomed into one of the world’s most exciting talents.

He is finally realising the potential that prompted Real to spend 45m euros for his signing when he was still 16 years old in 2017.

And now he has the chance to fulfil his destiny after being brought to the Bernabeu in what sounded back then like a desperate attempt to unearth the next Neymar.

“Between Vinicius and Neymar, for his current form, Vinicius is the one who finds himself in a better position to decide the game in Madrid,” Paulo Vinicius Coelho, one of Brazil’s leading pundits, told BBC Sport.

“It’s unclear what will happen to them in the medium term, but, for what he has done week in, week out, I have no doubt that Vinicius is the greatest Brazilian forward in Europe right now. Neymar usually starts seasons well and then declines. He can still do the opposite this time.”

Although Neymar has not scored in the Champions League for over a year, the quality undoubtedly remains.

His main obstacle is to avoid the injuries which have marked his PSG career so far – of the 255 matches the Parisians have played since his unveiling in 2017, he featured in only 134 of them.

It’s something that certainly does not help his case.

“Over the last year, Vinicius’ stature in the game has obviously changed,” said Leonardo Bertozzi, a football analyst for ESPN. “A year ago, we didn’t know for sure whether he would become a key player for Real Madrid.

“The arrival of Ancelotti has had a big impact on him – he has earned his trust, is getting regular football and has formed a great attacking partnership with Karim Benzema.

“But he still has some way to go, so I don’t believe we are quite there yet in the process of passing the baton.”

‘We no longer need Neymar because we have Vinicius’

No matter what Neymar does, he can’t seem to please anyone. It is like the relationship between him and the fans has reached a point of no return where nothing can be done to change it.

“If Real Madrid beat PSG, it will only strengthen the perception that we no longer need Neymar because we have Vinicius, but it doesn’t work like this,” Coelho argued.

“We need both of them, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes we made with the previous generation. For different reasons, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka didn’t make it to the 2014 World Cup and we ended up getting there with two 22-year-olds, Neymar and Oscar, leading our attack.

“In Brazil, we have no baton-passing tradition, we prefer the ruptures. It doesn’t have to be ‘it’s not Neymar’s time anymore, it’s Vinicius’ now’. We can have both of them doing well in Europe.”

Regardless of the result on Wednesday, time is ticking for Neymar to deliver on his full potential, particularly when you consider this is a World Cup year.

And Vinicius still has a long road ahead.

“Neymar has not yet achieved what, for many Brazilians, is regarded as the mission of our footballers, which is to be named the world’s best and win big trophies,” Bertozzi concluded. “It’s undeniable that a lot of people expected that of him and he has not done it so far.”

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