Vinicius Junior

Getty Images

Top European teams roll in domestic Cup action

Leave a comment

Manchester City advanced in the Carabao Cup despite losing to Manchester United, but otherwise most top teams across Europe advanced in domestic Cup action with little trouble.

Real Madrid hammered Real Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey behind four different goalscorers. Raphael Varane opened the scoring just six minutes in, and it was elementary from that point on. Lucas Vazquez doubled the lead past the half-hour mark, while Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema tacked on goals inside the final 20 minutes. The Vinicius goal was the pick of the lot, poking home the finish with the outside of his foot. Zaragoza held its own in front of net, actually out-shooting Madrid 15-13, but only put three of its 15 efforts on target and struggled to cope with Madrid’s ruthlessness in front of net, and overall it was just too easy for the La Liga leaders who advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition.

In other Copa del Rey scores, defending champions Valencia needed penalties to pass by Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa after a 0-0 draw. Santi Cazorla scored as Villareal topped Rayo Vallecano 2-0, with both Villareal goals coming inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

In France, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille advanced by two-goal margins, also moving into the quarterfinals.

PSG started a second-choice eleven against third-tier Pau and worked a 2-0 victory behind goals from Pablo Sarabia and Leandro Paredes. Mauro Icardi led the lines for PSG supported by the likes of Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, while Ander Herrera held down the midfield.

Marseille topped fellow Ligue 1 challengers Strasbourg 3-1 with Dimitri Payet on the scoresheet alongside Bouna Sarr and Boubacar Kamara. It was tight through the end until Kamara put the game away in the 95th minute. Payet’s goal came from the spot, while Sarr’s opener just past the half-hour mark featured a dizzying, sparkling run through the penalty area past three defenders before finishing with the left foot.

Inter had a tougher task, squeaking by Fiorentina 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Antonio Candreva poached a goal in the 44th minute on a goalmouth scramble to put Inter in front, and while Fiorentina drew level on the hour mark off a corner, Nicolo Barella delivered a venomous blast seven minutes later to seal the win. The match featured the debut of Christian Eriksen off the bench, seeing time on the field alongside four other former Premier League players for Inter in starters Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young plus substitute Victor Moses.

The one side that fell in disappointing fashion was French club Lille who slumped to a 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side SAS Epinal. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scored just eight minutes into the match to put Lille in front early, but the minnows managed a pair of second-half goals from Jean-Phillipe Krasso to pull off the enormous upset.

The only top European league that did not feature any domestic Cup action this week was Germany, whose DFB-Pokal is still in the Round of 16. Those matches will take place next week with RB Leipzig taking on Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern Munich hosts Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen meets Stuttgart, Schalke hosts Hertha BSC, and Borussia Dortmund visits Werder Bremen.

Report: Real Madrid, Flamengo agree on $39M fee for starlet Reinier

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The next Vinicius Junior is on his way to the Spanish capital.

Flamengo forward Reinier will join the Real Madrid later this month for a fee of $39 million, according to Goal.com.

Highly-rated Reinier, who will turn 18 on January 19, is set to follow in the footsteps of Vinicius Junior after nixing the opportunity to sign for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

The Brazilian and Spanish giants will wait to announce the deal until the Brazil under-23 ace turns 18, which came at half of the price that Flamengo were originally asking for ($78 million), per the report.

Flamengo will receive 80 percent of the transfer fee, while the player and his representative will receive the rest.

In November, Reinier renewed his contract with the Copa Libertadores champions, extending his stay in Rio de Janiero until 2024.

The 17-year-old scored six goals in 14 appearances in league play, helping Flamengo lift the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A title.

In July, Reinier made his first-team debut with Flamengo against Emelec in a Copa Libertadores bout. He’s expected to be an integral part of Brazil’s under-23 team, who look to claim one of the two spots available for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan over the summer.

Vinicius Junior is the latest player to flourish under Zidane

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID — Vinicius Junior has become the latest Real Madrid player given new life by coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Brazilian teenager started this weekend for the first time in nearly two months, taking full advantage of his chances.

After a long time being overlooked, Vinicius Junior put in an exciting performance in the team’s 2-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday, being loudly cheered by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd.

“Vinicius has done very well after not playing for long time, that is important,” Zidane said. “He got his chance and did well. He never stopped working hard.”

Zidane has been trying to keep his entire squad motivated this season, constantly rotating players and not leaving them on the sidelines for too long. He recently recovered Francisco “Isco” Alarcon by making him a starter again following a long period on the bench, and had done the same with other players who did not have many minutes this season.

Vinicius Junior hadn’t started since the team’s 1-0 loss at Mallorca in the Spanish league in October, coming off the bench only three other times since then. The team’s other Brazilian teenager, Rodrygo, had gained space and was having more opportunities under Zidane recently.

But on Saturday, Vinicius Junior put his talent on display again, using his nifty moves to get past defenders and create numerous scoring opportunities for his teammates. Rodrygo also played from the start, but it was Vinicius Junior who attracted all the attention.

Vinicius Junior’s only goal this season came in a league match against Osasuna in September, but Zidane said that’s not something being held against him.

“The important thing is that the player wants to score and is doing his best,” Zidane said. “The goal may come or may not. It will be the result of his good work on the field.”

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior tears ankle ligaments

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Leave a comment

Real Madrid’s troubled season is in even worse shape with the news that Vinicius Junior’s season may be finished early due to torn ankle ligaments.

[ MORE: Pochettino banned ]

The 18-year-old is one of the lone bright spots of the 2018-19 campaign, which will end with neither a Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, nor La Liga crown barring a stunning Barcelona collapse.

Vinicius was in tears leaving the pitch during the first half of Real’s 4-1 loss to Ajax at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, an ankle injury taking him out of the match at 2-0.

With three goals and 12 assists in 28 matches despite his tender age, Vinicius was serving notice that he can be part of the light at the end of this season’s tunnel. He had just earned his first call into Brazil camp.

Real is eight points clear of fifth place Alaves and 11 ahead of Sevilla, so it’s Champions League place is not in question for next season. It’s road into the end of the season is also quite forgiving.

Vinicius Junior injured as Real Madrid on brink (video)

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Playing in the biggest game of his life, 18-year-old Real Madrid whiz kid Vinicius Junior subbed off of it in tears.

An early injury was complicated by a long dribble, and the Brazilian left the match in the 34th minute.

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings ]

Real trailed Ajax 2-0 in the match and 3-2 on aggregate when Vinicius was unable to continue the second leg.

Vinicius has three goals and 12 assists in 28 matches this season.

He’s contributed to a goal just over every 100 minutes, and was as explosive as anyone not named Lionel Messi in the Copa del Rey.

Lucas Vazquez was also subbed off the pitch for Gareth Bale, but that was not down to injury.