MADRID (AP) Vinicius Junior has become the latest Real Madrid player given new life by coach Zinedine Zidane.
The Brazilian teenager started this weekend for the first time in nearly two months, taking full advantage of his chances.
After a long time being overlooked, Vinicius Junior put in an exciting performance in the team's 2-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday, being loudly cheered by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd.
"Vinicius has done very well after not playing for long time, that is important," Zidane said. "He got his chance and did well. He never stopped working hard."
Zidane has been trying to keep his entire squad motivated this season, constantly rotating players and not leaving them on the sidelines for too long. He recently recovered Francisco "Isco" Alarcon by making him a starter again following a long period on the bench, and had done the same with other players who did not have many minutes this season.
Vinicius Junior hadn't started since the team's 1-0 loss at Mallorca in the Spanish league in October, coming off the bench only three other times since then. The team's other Brazilian teenager, Rodrygo, had gained space and was having more opportunities under Zidane recently.
But on Saturday, Vinicius Junior put his talent on display again, using his nifty moves to get past defenders and create numerous scoring opportunities for his teammates. Rodrygo also played from the start, but it was Vinicius Junior who attracted all the attention.
Vinicius Junior's only goal this season came in a league match against Osasuna in September, but Zidane said that's not something being held against him.
"The important thing is that the player wants to score and is doing his best," Zidane said. "The goal may come or may not. It will be the result of his good work on the field."