Julen Lopetegui insists he would have used Vinicius Junior at Real Madrid this season, despite giving the teenager limited opportunities when he was in charge.
The highly rated Brazilian arrived at Madrid from Flamengo ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and was tipped to help fill the void left by departing great Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Vinicius played just 12 minutes across two substitute appearances in LaLiga before Lopetegui was sacked at the end of October, having himself endured a tough start to life at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Vinicius has subsequently established himself as a star man, scoring against Real Valladolid and Deportivo Alaves.
While some have wondered if Vinicius would have had the same impact had Lopetegui kept his job, the former Spain coach is adamant he was simply biding his time with the winger.
“Vinicius was in a period of adaptation and the time factor was very important,” Lopetegui told El Partidazo.
— Vinicius Jr (@vini11Oficial) February 13, 2019
“He was going to play because seasons last 10 months and not a month and a half. It is evident that he is a player who was in our plans.
“In the future, he would have played with us and there is no doubt he has a great future ahead of him.”
Lopetegui endured a difficult 2018 as his agreement to join Madrid on the eve of the World Cup saw him sacked as Spain boss, before he departed the European champions less than five months later.
But the coach says he was glad to have the opportunity to lead two footballing heavyweights and hopes to grow from the experience.
“I had two extraordinary experiences as a coach and I enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “We arrived at the World Cup very well prepared.
“At Madrid, it didn’t last as long as we wanted. But there are situations that make you stronger and give you thicker skin.”
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