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Vinicius Junior: Why Flamengo calm as Barcelona, Chelsea & Man Utd circle

Vinicius Junior. Flamengo know they've something special on their hands. Barcelona. Manchester United. Chelsea. They're all in touch. But Fla aren't looking to make a fast buck. They're not ready to cash in just yet.

Barca have already made an attempt for 'Vini' in the last month. Andre Cury, who oversaw Barca's deal with Santos for Neymar, has been enlisted to clinch an agreement for the 16 year-old. After losing out to Manchester City for Gabriel Jesus last year, the Catalans are desperate not to see the same happen with Vinicius.

Representatives of Traffic, which take care of Vinicius, were in Barcelona last month, sparking speculation that a deal was done. Fla had agreed to sell the teen - some claimed - and Vini, who admits playing as Barca on the FIFA video game, had accepted the move.

However, a source close to Vini's prime agent, Frederico Pena, told Tribalfootball.com the exact opposite was true: That a contract renewal was now well down the road and the reason for Pena's presence in Spain had nothing to do with Vini.

"He was in Barcelona for Douglas," our source told this column. "The fullback who's away on-loan at Sporting Gijon. The meetings had nothing to do with Vini."

Fla's board are calm. FIFA regulations mean Vinicius can't leave Brazil until he's 18. And having already written a €30 million buyout clause in his current deal, as our source says, the plan is now to extend that from 2018 to 2019 and hike up the release fee.

Barca are eager. Even desperate. But Fla hold all the cards. They're keeping their nerve - even with enquiries arriving from beyond Spain.

And there is English interest. United are keen, as are City. Chelsea and Arsenal have also been following the striker's progress both for Fla's U16 team and with Brazil at this year's triumphant U17 South American Championships. But Fla's board are in no rush - nor need - to sell. The coaching staff, for now, have been assured - Vinicius won't be sold before he reaches the first team.

For all the hype, the player has only just been added to Fla's U20 squad, making his debut a month ago. The club's most famous son, Zico, while happy the board aren't planning any quick sale, believes there's no need to hold Vinicius back.

"If the coach thinks he's fit, I do not see anything wrong," he argues. "Age is no problem. The only issue that needs to be understood with youngsters, as Flamengo lost a generation because of this, is if the boy goes to the pros and is still young enough to drop back, he must return with the same joy.

"The boy cannot be dazzled and think he's already a professional. It happened to me and I returned with the same joy to the team below."

Like those in the boardroom, however, the club's football director, Rodrigo Caetano, is happy for Vinicius to learn his craft step by step.

"Vinícius has a very special project mapped out, but we do not want to skip stages. Everything must be experienced, the methodology, the physical, psychological and nutritional aspects of being a professional. He must gain this experience gradually," says Caetano.

"It's clear that Vinicius Junior will be more and more present with us (senior squad) throughout the year. We have a commitment to this. It's our mission not to make a mistake with the most important aspect of the club. We have a very promising generation coming through."

But such a conscious effort to protect 'the best of his generation', isn't putting off European suitors. Barca, particularly, are ready to go down the same road as they did with Neymar, offering Fla a hefty sum just for an option on Vinicius. No such agreement was in place with Palmeiras for Gabriel, so allowing City to step in and tie up a deal. Again, with Cury now on the case, Barca are desperate not to have the same happen again.

"I do not know anything, I'm in Flamengo today and I think of Flamengo all the time," said Vinicius when the Barca speculation first emerged.

"I'm the new Vinícius himself and not the new Neymar."

And the Brazil captain is aware of him, as he reveals: "A friend of his, who is my friend, asked Neymar about me. He (Neymar) already knew me, had watched some games and sent me a message. I was very happy with his message."

But for all the connections with Barca, Fla management know Vinicius' first loyalty is to them.

"We tried to sign him as a 13 year-old," recalls former Corinthians football chief Fábio Barrozo, "but we couldn't convince his family."

Adds Corinthians manager Alysson Marins, "Then, at the age of 15, we were once again impressed by Vinícius. We made a very good offer, completely out of the reality for a boy of the age, but he did not accept it."

Admired by Zico and Neymar. Wanted by the world's greatest clubs. And yet, has only just made his debut with his club's U20 team. Amid all the hype, that loyalty to Flamengo could be the biggest factor in Vinicius Junior enjoying a successful senior career.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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