‘Vinícius Júnior Is Dangerous’

Vinícius Júnior 


Carlo Ancelotti praised Vinícius Júnior’s development as a player and person ahead of Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey round-of-16 tie with Atlético Madrid today, saying adding variety to the forward’s game has made him “more dangerous.”

Vinícius, 23, starred in Madrid’s 4-1 Clásico thrashing of Barcelona in Sunday’s Spanish Supercopa final in Saudi Arabia, scoring a hat trick, before admitting that he wants to improve his behaviour on the pitch.

The Brazil forward — who has missed two-and-a-half months of action this season with two thigh injuries — said “I’m no saint” after clashing with Barca’s players during the game in Riyadh and accepted that “sometimes I talk too much,” but also said he “wants to improve” and be a role model.

“[Vinícius] is back to his best level after his injury,” Ancelotti said in a news conference yesterday. “He needed some time. He scored [in the Supercopa final] in different ways.

“He’s learning to play on the inside as well as the outside, that makes him more dangerous. He’s much less predictable, changing his position, and combining well with Rodrygo [Goes]. And I liked what he said [after the match] even more than the three goals.”

The Copa del Rey tie at Atlético’s Metropolitano today is a second Madrid Derby in eight days, after Real Madrid won a thrilling Supercopa semifinal 5-3 last week.

“That game was evenly-matched,” Ancelotti said. “It went to extra time. Tomorrow will be even more difficult. They play at home, and at home they’re playing well… I’m convinced it will be even more difficult than in the Supercopa.”

The Italian coach was asked whether Atlético’s players ought to welcome Real Madrid onto the field with a guard of honour as newly crowned Supercopa champions, a source of contention between the clubs in recent years.

“I respect the decision of each club,” Ancelotti said. “If they do it, perfect. If they don’t, perfect. It’s not very important to me.”

“Nothing has changed since last time,” Atlético coach Diego Simeone said yesterday, referring to May 2022, when Atlético refused to give Real a guard of honour as LaLiga champions.

“I have huge respect for the coach and the players. But in terms of respect, our fans come first.”