A second round of the Champions League match for Real Madrid appears again, tomorrow against Atalanta at the Di Stéfano (9:00 p.m., Movistar Champions League), and with it the echoes of the last two European courses evaporated in that round return, although now the whites start with a 0-1 advantage in the first leg. The memory of those disappointments returns, and in the case of Vinicius Jr (Brazil, 20 years old) that of the ruptured ligaments of the right ankle that he suffered on the night of March 2019 when Madrid was eliminated against Ajax at the Bernabéu, and that stopped the Brazilian in a blazing moment of exuberance. He remembers it by video call.
Ask. Have you seen the images of the injury again?
Answer. No, since my injury I forgot about the set. I do not see the photos, because it is a very sad day for me. He was fine, he had played the first leg well. It was a day that all Madridistas knew we could win, and it was very difficult for everyone.
P. How do you remember leaving the field crying?
R. Frustration for not being able to play, for not being able to help. All the work he had done for this game … Going out at 40 minutes is a bit difficult. And I knew it was an important moment for me, and for the club. That he was doing the right things, that he was doing things very well. All the players helped me by putting balls for me to do something different … It was a bit complicated.
P. Reviewing the game, it seems that he is not injured when he falls next to the goal, but before.
R. I broke down on a previous play. And I thought: “It is not possible that I am going to have to leave this game. I will continue, I will continue, I will continue ”. And a ball arrived. And I had to run 50 meters like that, and I think that in these 50 meters things got worse. But I wanted to try, give it my all.
P. Did it hurt already in that race?
R. Yes, quite. I ran with the tip of my foot, because it hurt a lot. I managed to reach the goal, and I did not finish the play well because I was injured. Could not.
I’m never sad. I am with my friends at home, and playing in the best club in the world with 20 years
P. What was it like to come back? There was another coach, Zidane, he was left out of the Copa América …
R. It was complicated. I knew I could go to the Copa América … I always want to play, I want to be in all the games, but things are at the right time, and this time was not mine … When you get injured, you think a lot: you do everything right , and for one play you have to leave the season for two or three months. And it changes everything.
P. Was he sad, angry?
R. I’m never sad. I am with my friends at home, and playing for the best club in the world with 20 years. So, I’m never sad. Sometimes frustrated, sometimes a little thoughtful, but never sad.
P. When did you completely forget the injury and was able to do everything the same as before?
R. Six or seven months. I didn’t play for two or three months, and when you put your boots back on you always think a lot about where you can put your foot, where you can’t put it. I think I always doubted for six months. And when it was cold, it hurt without doing anything. I was going to put the boot on and it was hurting.
P. Did it affect dribbling?
R. In one on one, the center-back always wants to hit, and then you have to be more careful. At first, of course. Now I do not think about it, and I do not think about injuring myself again.
P. One of the most striking images after his return was when he scored a goal against Osasuna and fell to his knees crying. How do you remember it?
R. After so long, to be able to score, and at the Bernabéu, where the fans love me so much … I had returned, I was not as good as before. The demand in Madrid is very great, the pressure, everything … When I made that goal I felt a relief …
P. The other day you remembered with Pelé and Neymar that Pelé said that sometimes winning more than joy was a relief.
R. Because of the pressure we have. And here, in the biggest team in the world, it is always worse. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sergio [Ramos], which takes longer, or is it Mendy, Rodrygo or I, who have been here for a short time and we are young. In Madrid there is not that. They had played five Champions and won four. And I arrived just at this moment, after Cristiano, the club’s greatest legend, who won everything… A bit complicated. But I take the pressure very well.
I know that I am very good at one-on-one, and that the defender always thinks a lot when he is going to play against me
P. Is a goal more joy or more relief?
R. More joy. Always. The goal is the result of all the work we do. The goal gives us the peace of mind to play more times, to be better, to have more confidence. The goal is the most beautiful moment in football.
P. And the dribble? How is that feeling?
R. I like it, but dribbling is easier for me than scoring. I have the most controlled things. I know that I am very good at one on one, and that the defender always thinks a lot when he is going to play against me.
P. You grew up in São Gonçalo, a Rio neighborhood very close to a slum and very different from Madrid. Do you have things from that street football?
R. Of course, all the dribbles I do now at Real Madrid I used to do on the street. And without fear. From São Gonçalo, I was never afraid of doing things, I was never afraid of facing an opponent, and that will always be the case. It doesn’t matter if I play for Real Madrid or Flamengo, I will always do the same things.
P. Do you ever get nervous?
R. The day I was most nervous in my life was my debut in Flamengo. I trained twice and went to the game. I am a fan of Flamengo, and it was a dream for me, and for my family. But I didn’t know it was going to be so soon. And getting to Maracana, where I used to be in the stands, and hearing 40,000 people chanting my name to get me into the game, is not easy. It was the most important and most nervous day of my life. Until after the game I did not believe that I had played.
After the injury, I always doubted for six months. And when it was cold, it hurt without doing anything. I was going to put my boot on and it was hurting me
P. What do you imagine as the best moment in a field: having the band to run, scoring as a Chilean…? What is your dream moment?
R. The dreamed moment would be something like what I did against Barcelona, that I left three players, I left them on the ground, although I could not score the goal [Busquets, Semedo y Piqué, en febrero de 2019, 0-3 en Copa en el Bernabéu]. That would be one of the most important goals for me, one of the most beautiful ones too. I keep training to get there again and do it. And that it remains marked in history. Against Barcelona. And do that in the Champions League. It’s certainly where I want to do it.
P. And what do you choose from what you have already achieved?
R. Winning the League is the most important moment for me, the most important trophy so far. And play 100 games with this team, because only three legends played 100 games with this age, and they are all from Spain. [Raúl, Camacho y Casillas]. I left Brazil at the age of 18, and I am here with 100 games at 20. It is very important for me, for everything that Madrid has planned for me. I think things are going well, as everyone thought. I want to continue here, that people love me very much.
P. That day he wrote a letter to the fans, and quoted a phrase from Juanito: “I am a Madridista to the core.” Why Juanito?
R. I always research on the internet about the history of the club and what they have done before I came here, and Juanito is undoubtedly one of the most passionate Madridistas about the club, and he has always done everything to put Madrid in its place.
P. What is it like to play with Benzema, who has been so demanding of you?
R. Karim is amazing. I have been a fan of his since when I played in Brazil and watched his matches. Playing with Karim is easy. He is the best forward of the moment. Playing with Karim is good for me, it is having an idol with me always. He always tells me the things to do, and he also likes to play with me. I always listen to him, because surely he does it so that I can improve, and give him more assists, and he give me more assists.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.