a great player – Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti praised Vinicius Junior’s performance in Wednesday’s club World Cup victory over Al Ahly as the Real Madrid striker managed to ignore the recent turmoil around him.

Vinicius has become a regular target of racist abuse from fans this season, with images on social media appearing to show discriminatory comments made against him during Madrid’s 1-0 defeat to Real Mallorca on Sunday.

LaLiga launched an investigation into that incident the following day, although it was by no means the first example of Vinicius misusing the term.

The 22-year-old fell victim to racist chants in both Madrid’s matches with city rivals Atletico Madrid, as LaLiga filed hate crime charges in Spain’s courts following similar incidents in December’s match with Real Valladolid.

Ancelotti went on to stress that such treatment is indicative of a wider problem in Spanish football.

Vinicius then played a starring role as Madrid beat Al Ahly 4–1 in Rabat to reach the Club World Cup final, and Ancelotti was asked if he was more comfortable on the pitch being away from Spain.

“He likes to play the best he can wherever he is, always,” Ancelotti said of the 22-year-old, who put Madrid ahead with one of his four tries and also created three chances.

“Today he always tried. He played a complete game, he was always dangerous and he scored a fantastic goal.

“He is the Vinicius you have seen in many games. He has shown what he is again and he is a great player.”

Luka Modric had a penalty saved in the closing stages on Wednesday as Madrid led 2-1.

In the end, his failure mattered little as Rodrygo and Sergio Arribas scored in stoppage time to secure a resounding victory, and Ancelotti will not overstate the Croat’s miss.

“I have to pick better shooters,” joked Ancelotti.

“Sometimes they fail. Luka usually does well, and you have to choose the best. I made it very clear: Karim [Benzema]Modric and, if the others aren’t here, [Marco] Asensio [are the main takers].

“It’s hard to train for penalties. The environmental factors can’t be replicated in training.”

Arribas’ late attack was the 21-year-old’s first senior goal for Madrid, and his impact from the bench was notable for his status as an academy player.

Homegrown youngsters have struggled to earn minutes for Los Blancos this season, particularly in LaLiga, with Eduardo Camavinga the only under-21 player to make a top appearance for them in the 2022-23 season.

However, Ancelotti stressed that the young players are not forgotten.

“The youth academy is a very important aspect, no one forgets the players from the youth academy,” he said. “But we must not forget that it is not easy to give them minutes because the level of the first team is very high.

“We are evaluating [the young players], they progress. The coaches at the academy do a great job, and [the young players] will soon be in the first team.

“But this team won the Champions League, it’s a very good team.”

Madrid will face Al-Hilal in the final of the World Cup for club teams on Saturday.

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