Forget Karim Benzema’s hat trick, it was Vinicius Jr that was infused with Main Character Syndrome during Real Madrid’s historic 4-0 spanking of Barcelona at Camp Nou.
While Benzema has made a career out of sustained excellence in the shadows – you half-expected him to shine Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots after scoring during the 2010s – Vinicius is a completely different beast.
The perfect marriage of dignity-shredding skill and end product, the Brazil international is both the present and the future of Real Madrid’s attack.
And Vinicius turned on the style as Madrid travelled to Catalonia with the express intention of overturning a one-goal deficit in their Copa del Rey semi-final.
As a tense first 45 minutes drew to a close, Vinicius opened the floodgates with a nonchalant flick over the sprawling carcass of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
With Madrid liberated, Karim Benzema plundered a second-half hat trick to leave the Barcelona players planning one-way flights to Timbuktu to escape the furious glaze of their supporters.
In this context, with Carlo Ancelotti’s men strutting towards the final against Osasuna, Vinicius was not about to waste the opportunity to torment his stricken opponents.
Going into the match, much of the focus surrounded Vini’s clash with Ronald Araujo. Having nullified the attacker on previous occasions, Araujo sauntered into the stadium carrying his post-match cigar in expectation of another triumph.
How foolish. The Uruguay international was turned inside out like a pair of old jeans by Vinicius, who took pleasure in rubbing Araujo’s face in a particularly tasty slice of humble pie.
Early in the second half, the Madrid attacker sent Araujo out for some churros with a delightfully effortless stepover and sleight of foot that left his opponent thrashing at thin air.
Proof, if any more was needed, that Vinicius can run faster with the ball at his feet than a cheetah on a treadmill.
Vinicius Junior sacándose a Ronald Araujo 🕺🏾 pic.twitter.com/JipN2FtlQa
— MadridTotal (@MadridTotal_) April 5, 2023
With his professional reputation being joyfully shredded, it wasn’t surprising that Araujo eventually snapped during a traumatic second period for both player and club.
As Vinicius boasted gleefully in his face, Araujo gave his opponent a forceful shove towards the terra firma. It wasn’t too surprising to see Vinicius fall down like a sack of potatoes pushed off a cliff edge, but it was extremely funny.
The gloves are off between Araujo and Vini jr! 🥊 pic.twitter.com/Nm0LvK2DRB
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 5, 2023
In his post-match interview, Araujo was unsurprisingly asked about Vinicius and his response was dripping in so much bitterness that the interviewer gave him a towel to wipe it up with.
“Vinicius needs to focus on playing football,” the Barcelona defender said. “I got a little heated because he was talking to my team-mates the entire game, taunting them.
“I’ve always said he is a great player who will get a lot better if he’s only focused on playing. I’m always respectful, but he was talking a lot and I got a little heated.”
As Madrid celebrated long into the night, and Barcelona licked their wounds, Vinicius had once again proven he lives rent-free in the subconscious of his opponents.
By Michael Lee