Vinicius Junior: I need to 'mature' before playing with Ronaldo, Bale
Vinicius Junior is dreaming of playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, but knows he has to "mature" first over the next two years before his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid announced this week that they had signed Vinicius, 16, from Flamengo, with the reported €45 million transfer effective in July 2018 when the Brazil youth international turns 18.
Vinicius told Fox Sports Brazil after Flamengo reached the quarterfinals of the Copa Do Brazil following Wednesday's 2-1 triumph over Atletico Goianiense: "I like Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale but right now I'm only thinking of playing at Flamengo with Diego [Rivas] and [Paolo] Guerrero. Cristiano Ronaldo and [Toni] Kroos' passes come to mind but my head is on Flamengo.
"I want to arrive there [Madrid] with a cool head and spend time at Flamengo, one or two years, in order to arrive more matured. I will think about Madrid in two years. I want to win many titles with the Flamengo jersey and then think about Madrid."
Barcelona were among the other clubs reportedly interested in Vinicius, who has become the most expensive Brazilian signing since his "idol" Neymar joined the Catalan club from Santos in 2013 for €57.1m, a figure that's the subject of an ongoing court case.
"I want to send a hug to Neymar and tell him that he is my idol," Vinicius said.
Vinicius, the top scorer and player of the tournament as Brazil won the 2017 South American Under-17 Championship in March, made his senior professional club debut for Flamengo earlier this month and only renewed his contract with them last week.
"I'm not thinking about money, only about playing and giving joy to our fans," Vinicius said.
Flamengo coach Ze Ricardo, who has known Vinicius since he was 12, handed him his first-team debut with the Rio de Janeiro-based club.
He told Marca: "Vinicius has a great future ahead of him. He has gone through every stage before arriving to this point [to the first team]. He is not only going to be important to the clubs he will be at, whether it's Real Madrid when the time comes or Flamengo, but also for Brazilian and world football."
Ze Ricardo believes Vinicius will have no problem adapting to a world-class side like Madrid.
"Since the first day, he proved a great technical and physical capacity," he said. "He is a gifted player, very fast. He has speed and technique, his main characteristics. He is also very strong emotionally, it's not easy to bring him down. He doesn't feel pressure regardless of whether the rival is older or bigger than him."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.