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Interview: Real Madrid's Vinícius Júnior on Carlo Ancelotti, Karim Benzema and making a name for himself in Spain

"My style of play has a lot of character," says the Madrid forward as he looks ahead to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Paris. "I play with joy."

Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior in training ahead of a UEFA Champions League game
Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior in training ahead of a UEFA Champions League game Getty Images

Signed from Flamengo in 2018, forward Vinícius Júnior has been taking things up a notch in his fourth full season at Real Madrid.

The 21-year-old says an intense summer fitness regime and the confidence of coach Carlo Ancelotti have helped him to cement his place in the starting line-up this season. And as the UEFA Champions League tie against Paris approaches, he explains how he has been getting on the wavelength of striker Karim Benzema.

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On his playing style and how he has come on at Real Madrid

Highlights: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 Real Madrid
Highlights: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 Real Madrid

My style of play has a lot of character. I'm not afraid of making mistakes and, if I make them, I'll just keep trying. I play with joy.

I believe I've improved a lot and I still have a lot of room for improvement because I'm very young and I like to learn with the great players who play here. I'm very happy because everyone here tries to help me as much as they can so that I can improve and learn as quickly as possible to help [the team].

On Carlo Ancelotti

He's a great coach who has won many trophies, and he likes young players. He trusts us and he gives us the confidence we need. He's very thorough, which means I can play well. He talks to us a lot, and because we're very young, sometimes just talking is really nice. We also watch a lot of videos and we play a lot, which he does with me, [Éder] Militão, Rodrygo and [Eduardo] Camavinga, who are the younger players and the ones who need this attention.

I've always had confidence in my game, but when you start scoring more and assisting more you become more important for the team – and, of course, you get more confidence. You start wanting to help no matter what and in every match.

On his working holidays last summer

Vinícius Júnior celebrates a Flamengo victory in 2018
Vinícius Júnior celebrates a Flamengo victory in 2018Getty Images

I'm very happy I started off the season well, but I believe the key was the fact that, during the holidays, I trained so that I could reach another level. I believe I've played good matches and I want to continue like this until the end of the season because now is when we have the most important games.

I worked on my fitness, and as soon as I arrived in Madrid I started dieting so that I could be the best version of myself. Given that I came back after my team-mates, I knew in my head that I needed to be prepared because when I arrived here I'd just have just a few days of training before playing, since I'd just played in the Copa América. I think I prepared well. I always do, but this time it was different because I'm more mature and I know what I have to do to improve.

On Karim Benzema

He's a great person and he's a great player. He does everything he can to help me on and off the pitch. He gives me some tips but, of course, he does it more on the pitch. It's a dream come true to be playing with him. He's a player I'd only seen in video games and his quality is incredible. I think I've never played with a forward at the level he plays. He's a different player from the rest and he brings a lot to our team. Whenever he's not on the pitch, we miss him.

Since the beginning, he's always given me support and confidence. Since the beginning, I've given him space and he's done the same for me. We've been trying to perfect this relationship so that we can produce good results for the club. He's been helping me to assist more, score more and help the team more.

On approaching 150 games for Madrid

Paris vs Real Madrid: Round of 16 head-to-head
Paris vs Real Madrid: Round of 16 head-to-head

I'm 21 years old and having played so many matches for the greatest club in the world is a remarkable thing for me. I know how important this is because I want to stay here for a long time and I want to break a lot of records. I want to be a great player and play many matches wearing this shirt.

And I do follow the stats. When I reached 100 matches, I was among the four youngest players with the most games played in Real Madrid's history. That's really important. They're all legends who played great matches at such a young age: Raúl [González], [José Antonio] Camacho and [Iker] Casillas. For me, to be the fourth one is really important. They were great players here; they're club legends who did great things for Real Madrid.

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