MADRID (AP) — The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium crowd becomes animated every time Vinicius Junior gets the ball.
Anticipation builds and the crowd murmurings rise as the young Brazilian sets himself and studies the opposition.
Will there be a step-over dribble?
A quick drive past a defender?
A deceptive run filled with changes of pace?
In an up and down season for Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior has been the one steady factor, the one constant fans have been able to rely on to prompt a smile or cheer or sometimes awe.
The 18-year-old forward has given the fans hope of better times ahead as the team struggles to find consistency and regain confidence.
“Vinicius is bold, he takes people on,” Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari says.
“He is making huge strides. He’s always had the talent, but to develop it at the Bernabeu, surrounded by wonderful players, speaks volumes about his confidence, rawness, and the happiness he shows with the ball at his feet.”
Solari spoke after beating Leganes 3-0 in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, when Vinicius Junior scored the third goal with a neat volley from inside the area in the second half.