Real Madrid head into the Champions League this season as a weird unknown despite winning it for three years in a row. They really will go into the competition with one unknown quantity in the shape of Vinicius Junior.
The Champions League and Real Madrid have always gone hand-in-hand. Los Blancos won the competition, as the European Cup, for the first five years of its existence between 1956 and 1960.
They would go on to win it four more times including 2002 to put themselves on nine wins but La Decima alluded them until Carlo Ancelotti managed to secure it in 2014.
Now Real are on 13 wins after Zinedine Zidane’s run of three wins in just two and a half years of management, a run unprecedented in the competition for any side in the Champions League era when previously it hadn’t been defended once.
Weirdly though the La Liga side go into this season’s competition with huge question marks surrounding them after Zidane and record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo left in the summer.
Real have now sprung a surprise by including 18 year old new signing Vinicius Junior in their squad for the group stages.
Real Madrid’s forwards for this season’s competition. Image: PA Images
Vinicius Junior was signed last year from Santos for a reported €46 million but he had to stay at the Brazilian club for another year until he reached 18, at which point he moved to the Spanish capital this summer.
Real lost Ronaldo to Juventus for around £89 million after the Portuguese star said in the aftermath of the win over Liverpool in the final in May that he wanted to leave the club in the summer.
Junior in pre season. Image: PA Images
It still came as a surprise that he did leave after a history of similar incidents. Probably more surprising is the fact that Florentino Perez didn’t really replace the five time Ballon d’Or winner.
Julen Lopetegui’s side were drawn in Group G of this season’s competition and will face CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen and last season’s surprise semi-finalists Roma.
The loss of Ronaldo has dropped the Bernabeu side well down in the odds to the sixth favourites for this year’s competition with Manchester City, Barcelona and Ronaldo’s new side Juve the favourites.