El Clasico has typically been a closely-fought encounter, but Real Madrid asserted their dominance over Barcelona in a 4-1 demolition of their great rivals in the Spanish Super Cup final on Sunday night.
A first-half hat-trick from Vinicius Junior and a second-half strike from Rodrygo was enough to see off a timid Barcelona side, who were reduced to 10 men courtesy of Ronald Araujo’s 71st minute red card.
The victory means Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now won seven consecutive games, while they are unbeaten in their last 21 matches in all competitions. In fact, their only defeat all season came against Atletico Madrid back in September.
The summer departure of Karim Benzema was billed as a disaster, but Ancelotti’s clever player profiling has ensured that Real look even better without the Frenchman.
Jude Bellingham has slotted in seamlessly and has arguably been the world’s best player so far this season, while Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo have adapted expertly to their slightly-adjusted positions.
While Vinicius and Rodrygo have mostly played as split strikers this term, the Brazilian duo have effectively been used as wingers and their width has allowed Bellingham to advance forward to devastating effect.
However, although Bellingham has received most of the plaudits this term, it was Vinicius’ time to shine in El Clasico.
The Brazil international has notoriously struggled against Barcelona due to the fact Xavi always deploys the aforementioned Araujo at right-back in a bid to stop him.
The Uruguayan has often won this battle, but he was an emphatic loser on Sunday night.
Vinicius opened the scoring in the seventh minute after rounding Inaki Pena with immense composure before slotting into an empty net.
He then made it 2-0 as he slid in to tap home from just six yards out after a perfectly-weighted Rodrygo cross in the 10th minute.
⚽ ¡¡𝗚𝗢𝗢𝗢𝗢𝗢𝗢𝗟 del @realmadrid!!
🤯 ¡¡CÓMO ESTÁ VINICIUS!! ¡¡DOBLETE DEL BRASILEÑO!!
— RFEF (@rfef) January 14, 2024
That quick-fire double inside the first 10 minutes set the tone and Vinicius completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Araujo following an Aurelien Tchouameni cross.
With Vinicius off the left, Rodrygo off the right and Bellingham allowed to roam wherever he sees fit, Ancelotti has nailed his tactical blueprint and Real Madrid are arguably now favourites to win the Champions League despite the lack of a pure number nine.
Real Madrid don’t need Kylian Mbappe
Vinicius’ hat-trick against Barcelona was just reward for a player who has slightly struggled with injury this campaign.
The Brazilian has missed 11 games through injury in 2023-24, and while Los Blancos haven’t suffered without him, it’s evident that he is one of their most prized assets.
Vinicius thrives off the left wing and he looks accomplished in a slightly altered split striker role too.
That description perfectly fits Mbappe as well and although the Frenchman is capable of playing as a traditional number nine, he has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t want to play in this role.
As a result, purchasing Mbappe would be rather foolish as his arrival would directly impact Vinicius. Furthermore, it would also impact Bellingham and the Englishman’s freedom may be somewhat limited from an attacking perspective if Mbappe is added.
Of course, the PSG forward is a generational talent and he may be available on a free transfer this summer, but disrupting the current squad harmony at Real Madrid might not be worth it.
Ancelotti’s current system has extracted the best out of Bellingham, Vinicius and Rodrygo (not to mention players like Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde) and Mbappe is a luxury that Real Madrid don’t need.
Vinicius has nine goals and four assists in 17 games this season, and while that isn’t up to scratch with Mbappe’s numbers, he perfectly suits Los Blancos’ current attack in a way the Frenchman doesn’t.
Mbappe is a supremely-gifted footballer, but Real Madrid don’t need him.