Vinicius Jr takes veiled shot at Messi ahead of Clasico

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Real Madrid winger Vinicius Jr might be 18 years old, but ahead of the two El Clasicos in the next four days, he’s puffing his chest like a seasoned veteran.

With the two teams set to meet in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday with the score level at 1-1 so far, the Brazilian teen has earned a place in the starting lineup of late, and in turn has begun to throw himself full-tilt into the Clasico rivalry. “Messi is always there,” Vinicius Jr said to Brazilian publication Esporte Interativo on Monday. “He’s an incredible player but we aren’t scared of anybody. We’re ready and have the best players in the world.”

The quotes were edgy enough that the teen was forced to issue a clarification a day later after some outlets passing along the quote mistranslated it to him claiming that Messi “doesn’t scare anyone.”

Either way, Vinicius claiming that Real Madrid has “the best players in the world” is in its own way a more well-veiled shot at the player many believe is the best in the game today and maybe the greatest ever.

The two teams are set to take the field twice in a short span. After meeting in cup play midweek, the two will match up on Saturday in La Liga play in a huge game. Barcelona is seven points ahead in the league table, with Atletico Madrid back in second and Real Madrid a single point behind them in third. A Real Madrid win on Saturday would throw the title race on its head, cutting the lead to five and handing Atletico the chance to slice that to four.

Vinicius Jr has been a fan favorite over the last few months, earning a spot in Santiago Solari’s regular lineup over other more established players like Gareth Bale and Isco. He earned his first minutes in the rivalry with Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, having missed out on a spot in the squad during their first league meeting back in late October.