Vini Jr was portrayed as the flamboyant but less bankable maverick; Rodrygo was the guy with that metronomic ability to score off the bench. The super sub. Neither description does anything like justice to these two superb talents. And one central factor in both young Brazilians already being champions of a continent so far from their own is Ancelotti, and the trust he put in them. It’s an example to other big teams: unleash the talent, no matter the age.
“The manager has a job to do in terms of preparation off the pitch but, from the moment he got here, the calmness and confidence he inspired in us stood out. Now I go out onto the pitch feeling confident that I’ll play well but also confident that, when it isn’t immediately my day, he’ll trust me and leave me on until the end of the game. Any player, at any club, would like to feel more of this. It’s essential. And in fact our coach made me feel more important, even before we met, because he called me ahead of his arrival at the club and mapped out everything he believed we could achieve. This helped me a lot.”
But that’s not to say that every wonderkid is put together like Vini Jr: the mentality matches the technical and athletic talent. This summer he’s once again shown the mature, single-minded winner’s discipline and preparation that won him such trust and admiration from his venerable Italian coach a year ago.
In the summer of 2021 he returned
later than most of the Madrid men due to his involvement in the Copa America, but he worked ruthlessly hard to catch up. This summer the situation was different but his ideology was absolutely identical. Not every top footballer, regardless of their age, is guaranteed to be quite so driven.
You never know when the next final will be, so I had to enjoy it to the max
“I relaxed for 20 days, then spent the last ten days preparing to go back to pre-season already in the best shape possible. Pre-season is so important, it’s when you have to work the most: you do two training sessions a day that, with this club, are intense. Then, when you go home, you need to train again. One needs to be careful not to get injured, but also to do lots of preparation work to reduce the risk of injury throughout the entire season. I look at it like, ‘If I don’t get injured I’ll play more, which means more chances to win matches and have a great season’.
“With the family I’ve got, and given that I’m at Real Madrid, it’s not hard to be driven by that feeling of, ‘We have to go again, win again.’ I look up to the players who have achieved so much at the biggest club in the world. Despite how hard it is, they’ve won five Champions Leagues. So, naturally, I want to win as much as them, to lift five or maybe six Champions League trophies.”
He’s soaking up as much knowledge as he can to be able to hit that target. “It’s not enough that it was an amazing season – here at Madrid we have experienced players who are always teaching us. One of the lessons that they continuously emphasise to the younger players is that at this club, we don’t want to stop winning. Everyone had already won four Champions Leagues but Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Luka Modrić, who are older and more experienced, don’t get tired of winning. Just look how they did everything this season in order for us to win.
“I’d like to be as influential as some of the greatest players to have worn the Real Madrid shirt. This doesn’t just apply to me but all our young players: Eduardo Camavinga was already used to winning, also Rodrygo, Éder Militão, Fede Valverde. We are the players of the new generation and we’ll have to try to achieve most of what the previous group did, to meet raised expectations. Because our club and our supporters always want to win – we always want to be the best.”
So there you have it, everyone else in Europe – don’t say you haven’t been warned.