REAL MADRID missed out on Neymar. There was no way they were going to miss out on the next potential Brazilian superstar.
And so they took a gamble. Vinicius Junior was a 16-year-old without a professional match to his name when Real spent around £40million on him almost four years ago.
There were no guarantees that an outstanding youth prospect would go on to tip the balance at the highest level.
The road between promise and reality is long and winding, and plenty of wonderkids have veered off the path along the way.
But that performance against Liverpool last Tuesday made the transfer fee look like money well spent.
Vinicius Junior was winning the game for Real Madrid even before he opened the scoring with a superbly taken goal.
That devastating pace and those extra gears he has were sowing dangerous seeds of doubt in a Liverpool team already lacking confidence in its pressing game.
They were unsure whether to stick or twist. Jurgen Klopp’s brand of heavy metal cannot be played in unplugged mode, and the young Brazilian was the cause of the confusion.
Liverpool were too scared of him to press with conviction, leaving Toni Kroos with the space to hit Vinicius with raking passes over the top.
Football pace is never just pure speed. It is changes of rhythm, choosing the right moment to go through the gears and, if it is going to end up in goals, being able to decelerate and keep the head still enough to finish with precision.
So there was much more than velocity to admire in the two goals that Vinicius scored in Real Madrid’s 3-1 first leg win.
There was the timing of the run for the first goal, and the way he broke off from the defender on the second.
And there was the accuracy of his shooting, with two well placed attempts beating Brazil’s first choice goalkeeper.
This was the Champions League equivalent of the moment in South America’s Copa Libertadores when Vinicus Junior first indicated that he was on the way to being something special.
It was March 2018. Real Madrid had already signed him, but he was too young to move across the Atlantic and so was still playing for Flamengo of Rio.
They were a goal down away to Emelec of Ecuador when Vinicius was brought off the bench.
He turned defeat into triumph with two wonderful goals. Despite the disappointment of watching their team lose, the Emelec fans sensed that they had been in the presence of something out of the ordinary.
At the final whistle they queued up to have their photo taken with the teenage phenomenon.
The question now is whether he can produce Tuesday’s level of performance on a regular basis.
Doubts remain about his finishing and decision making – it is hardly surprising that someone who moves at that pace has problems with precision. Was the first leg a fluke?
There is no better place to prove that it was not than the second leg.
Liverpool are obliged to chase the game at Anfield. Hitting Vinicius on the counter attack will surely be a key part of Real Madrid’s strategy.
Another match winning display will show that true greatness is within his grasp.
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