Real Madrid's future looks brighter than ever with wonderkid Vinicius Junior

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Gilvan de Souza/CR Flamengo/Divulgação
The Flamengo youngster has already agreed a €45 million switch to the Bernabeu, but he is happy to be patient as he continues learning his trade

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Much has been said in recent weeks about the abundance of youthful talent that seems to be suddenly bounding out of the Santiago Bernabeu. With Isco, Marco Asensio, Mateo Kovacic and several other stars aged 25 or under, Real Madrid appear to be set up nicely to overtake Barcelona on a long-term basis at the top of La Liga.

What many people seem to have forgotten, however, is that an even more promising prodigy is waiting in the wings, itching to take on the challenge of a lifetime. Vinicius Junior may have to bide his time for a little while longer, but the Flamengo wunderkind is already showing that he might have what it takes to replace someone even as fundamental to Los Blancos' era of dominantion as Cristiano Ronaldo.

At just 17, the world is at Vinicius' feet. This weekend, he broke his Serie A scoring duck for Flamengo with both goals of a 2-0 victory over Atletico Goianiense, as the Rio side got off to a winning start in the league under ex-Ecuador and Atletico Nacional coach Reinaldo Rueda.

Indeed, some over-excited fans were quick to draw parallels with none other than Romario, after the teenage sensation effortlessly rounded Atletico's beleaguered keeper and slotted home his second of the game

Those comparisons may be a little premature but there is no doubt that Vinicius is drawing attention similar to that which followed Neymar at every step when he first took the field for Santos. And this time around, Madrid did not let Brazil's most exciting prospect get away.

Vinicius was tied to an estimated €45 million deal to join the Blancos before he had even turned 17, although he will remain at Flamengo for a further year following his entry into adulthood – meaning he will not arrive at the Bernabeu until June 2019.

Vinicius Jr Felipe Vizeu Flamengo Palestino Copa Sudamericana 09082017Vinicius Junior Atletico-PR Flamengo Brasileirao Serie A 28052017

That delay might just do Brazil Under-17s top scorer at the recent South American Championships a world of good, as he attempts to avoid getting caught up in his own hype.

Vinicius suffered a nasty fall back to earth in Rueda's debut at Flamengo in the Copa do Brasil semi-final, when he lasted just eight minutes off the bench before being subbed off again as the Colombian reacted to Alex Muralha's red card, which left Fla without a goalkeeper.

The game against Botafogo then went from strange to sinister when it was alleged that Vinicius and his family had been racially abused, with one fan arrested for offensive gestures. It is the type of hostile crowd that the forward will face time and again in Brazil and across South America, and is guaranteed to make him mature fast.

Speaking after his all-too-brief appearance in the game, the teenager admitted it served as a reminder he must take his opportunities, however fleeting, and play first and foremost for the team.

“I need to know how to wait,” he told Marca following that game. “I realise that people are asking for me to go on and play more, but everything has its moment.

“What is important now is to keep scoring and to help Flamengo.”

Agent Federico Pena is also trying to keep his client's feet on the ground, as he attempts to draw attention away from his mammoth transfer fee.

“Real Madrid have paid €45m not for what he is today, but for what he'll be in the future,” he told reporters.

Vinicius JR PS

“People are expecting him to do stuff that Neymar, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi didn't do [at that age]. Not even Marco Asensio played the way Vinicius Junior is playing today when he was 17.”

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The good news for Flamengo is that Rueda's strange shock treatment appears to have hit its mark. Having starred against Atletico at the weekend, Vinicius is now in pole position to start on Wednesday as Fla host the second leg of the Copa do Brasil semi-final against their arch-rivals.

A 0-0 draw in the opener leaves the tie hanging on a knife-edge in the Maracana, with neither the hosts nor Botafogo out of the running in the competition that holds the glittering prize of Copa Libertadores entry for the winner.

Having been eased into the side in his debut year as a professional, Vinicius is now ready to step up and play when it really counts. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, Madrid will be watching closely, as they await the kid who could become the cream of the most exciting crop of youngsters the club has ever had.

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