Portuguese, who set records that will likely never be broken, but his star potential is obvious.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s last Clasico matchup was suitably exciting. Both living legends scored, Sergi Roberto was sent off, and Messi curled one just outside the post late in the second half.
It embodied 10 years of fierce rivalry, with the two best in the world leading their teams to a gripping stalemate.
Since the Portuguese left, though, the Clasico has felt a bit stale, especially from a Madrid perspective.
Los Blancos have lacked the aura of inevitability that Ronaldo exuded, the singular figure who could take over a game with both on-field talent and irresistible swagger. Ronaldo was, in other words, actively feared.
Since he left, Madrid has continued to field its fair share of world-class players.
Karim Benzema is a Ballon d’Or-winning striker. Luka Modric is one of the best midfielders to ever play the game. But neither have reached the stratosphere of superstardom in which Ronaldo resided.
In Vinicius Junior, though, Madrid might just have a talent, and indeed a character, capable of reaching that level of adoration.
The Brazilian has become as effective as he is exciting, a must-watch player for not only his flair but also his killer instinct.
And, on Thursday, he gets another chance to show that he is now the Clasico’s main attraction…