What's eating Vinicius Junior? Inside the Real Madrid star's struggle for form

Vinicius Junior Real Madrid 2022-23Getty Images

Late in the second half of Real Madrid's win over Athletic Club, Vinicius Junior suddenly began doing keepy-uppies. Defenders had left the Brazilian alone momentarily, so he flicked the ball up, shuffled it up and down on his right foot, before running at an approaching full-back - much to the anger of the San Mames crowd.

And therein lies the appeal of Vinicius. He is an entertainer, an immensely talented footballer with the samba gene engrained into how he plays the game.

And it's enthralling. Regardless of whether the he is enjoying one of his best showings of the year or toiling through a tough 90 minutes, there will always be a little speckle of joy and entertainment in Vinicius' play.

The issue is, those joyous moments haven't been as consistent of late. The winger has scored once in his last eight appearances, and his performances have noticeably dropped a level or two.

Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti claimed that his player wasn't being respected enough amid fan criticism, racist abuse and relentless fouls from opponents. And he has a point. Vinicius is the most fouled player in La Liga this season. He's also been abused by rival supporters, and been subject to immense amounts of off-field scrutiny. It is, then, not always easy being Vinicius.

All of this amounts to a player who is out of sorts and struggling for form. But how can this all be explained? Why has the player dropped off so badly following the World Cup? GOAL takes a look...