In the aftermath of Real Madrid’s high-tension victory over Cadiz last week, Vinicius Jr. tweeted out the message: “Thank God, another game without an injury”

It was a statement that was part genuine relief given the state of injuries ahead of the World Cup 2022 tournament, and part some thinly-veiled criticism of the treatment he believes he’s dealt with in La Liga.

And it’s become a debate that’s dominated the headlines in Spain.

Vinicius Jr. and the Boy Who Cried Wolf

On an ESPN FC broadcast, Frank Leboeuf perfectly summed up the issue with Vinicius using the classic children’s tale “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” In many ways, it’s an apt analysis of the situation, though in a vacuum perhaps a bit too simplistic. 

There’s nuance to this situation but objectively Vinicius has been far and away the most fouled player in Spain and one of the most fouled in Europe.

Carlo Ancelotti, as always, recently offered his insight:

Fair play isn’t as common in Latin countries. It’s much more common in other countries. But, fair play is one of the most important parts of football. Trying to provoke a player isn’t fair play, whether it’s physically or verbally, but Vinícius needs to improve in his response to this. He’s young, so he will improve in this aspect.”

But while there’s merit to his anger at a lack of protection from the refs, he’s also played a role with some of his embellishments. It’s become this never-ending cycle of opponents fouling Vinicius, followed by Vini Jr. himself selling the contact at times to ensure the ref sees it, the ref getting tired of the embellishment, and then eventually legitimately poor fouls are not punished.

And therein lies the rub. Vinicius isn’t entirely wrong. But until he approves his reaction and approach, defenders will continue to utilize this against him and put him off his game. Football, like life, isn’t fair and to hit the highest levels he’ll have to focus on what he can control above all.

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