Vinicius Jr warns racists to be afraid: ‘I’ll hold them accountable’

Vinicius Jr said racists should be “afraid” after three Valencia fans were each sentenced to eight months in prison for abusing him during a match last year.

The sentences are the first convictions connected to racist abuse in football in Spain, and the Real Madrid forward welcomed the decision to issue custodial sentences to the people involved.

“The first criminal conviction in Spain’s history isn’t for me, but it’s for all black people,” the Brazilian posted on the social media platform X.

“May other racists feel scared, ashamed and hide in the shadows. Otherwise, I’ll be here to hold them accountable. Thank you to LaLiga and Real Madrid for helping with this historic conviction. More to come…”

The abuse punished by a Valencia court occurred during a league match at the Mestalla stadium in the city on May 21 last year. LaLiga filed the initial complaint which prompted the criminal case.

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Vinicius Junior broke down in tears last season while discussing the racism he has received while playing for Real Madrid, saying he just wanted to play football

The individuals were also given two-year stadium bans from any venue hosting LaLiga matches, or games held under the jurisdiction of the Spanish football federation (RFEF).

LaLiga said Valencia had co-operated with the investigation and had expelled the three people as members of the club.

A letter of apology to Vinicius from the defendants was read out during the hearing, LaLiga and Real confirmed.

LaLiga wants to ‘speed up the fight against racism’

LaLiga president Javier Tebas
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LaLiga president Javier Tebas wants to see sanctioning for racism offences speeded up

“This ruling is great news for the fight against racism in Spain, as it goes some way to redressing the disgraceful wrong suffered by Vinicius Jr and sends a clear message to those individuals who go to a football stadium to hurl abuse,” LaLiga president Javier Tebas said.

“LaLiga will identify them, report them and there will be criminal consequences.

“I understand that there may be some frustration at the length of time it takes for these sentences to be handed down, but this shows that Spain is a country that guarantees judicial integrity.

“We at LaLiga can only respect the pace of justice, but once again we demand that Spanish legislation evolves to give LaLiga sanctioning powers that can speed up the fight against racism.”

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Speaking ahead of the Champions League final, Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham was asked about team-mate Vinicius Junior winning the Ballon D’or

Currently LaLiga can only bring the facts of a case to the relevant legal authorities and is unable to sanction clubs, fans or players for hateful conduct, racism or violent acts itself.

Real Madrid issued a statement confirming the convictions which concluded: “Real Madrid, which has exercised together with Vinicius Junior the private prosecution in this procedure, will continue to work to protect the values of our club and eradicate any racist behaviour in the world of football and sport.”

Infantino: Rasicts not part of the football community

FIFA has announced the closure of criminal proceedings against its president Gianni Infantino over meetings he had with Switzerland’s former Attorney General

FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed the sentences as a “positive step” in the fight to rid football of racism.

He wrote on his Instagram Stories: “I am pleased to see the firm action and sentencing taken by the Spanish authorities in relation to the racist abuse directed at Vinicius Jr in a Spanish La Liga match in May 2023. This is a positive step.

“As I reiterated clearly at the recent FIFA Congress in Bangkok, we can no longer accept what is happening in stadiums and on the pitch.

Vinicius

“Our message to people anywhere in the world who still behave in a racist way when they are dealing with football is clear: we don’t want you. These people have to be excluded, they are not part of our community and not part of football.

“This ruling showcases one of FIFA’s five pillars of action: criminal charges. We, together united as global football, will push for recognition of racism as a criminal offence in every country in the world and, as seen today in Spain, where there is already an offence, will push for prosecution with the severity it deserves.”

Mbappe: I thought I’d never play for PSG this year

Kylian Mbappe was convinced he was never going to play for PSG this season because of how “violently” he claims he was spoken to, but admitted he was never unhappy at the French club despite leaving them for Real Madrid this week.

The 25-year-old completed a free transfer to European champions Real on Monday having refused to extend his contract at PSG, who initially kept him away from the first team during pre-season after he refused to commit to a new contract.

Mbappe was reinstated in the middle of August and played the season, though was taken off in key matches towards the end of the campaign as Luis Enrique wanted PSG to “learn how to play without him”.

That being said, Mbappe says this whole season has been “one of the best of his career”.

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Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol explains why Kylian Mbappe is still making headlines after his move from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid.

It is thought PSG want to move on from the whole saga, but the club would be disappointed by Mbappe’s comments given the substantial amount of money they have invested in him during his six-year stint at the club.

Recalling an apparent start of the season drama with the club hierarchy during a press conference on Tuesday, Mbappe said: “They told me straight, without any third party, straight to my face. It was very clear. I was spoken to so violently that I was convinced that I wasn’t going to play.

“The people who saved me were Luis Enrique and Luis Ocampos the sporting director. That’s the truth. Without them, I’d never have put a foot on the pitch. The truth was very much that as I had a good relationship with the coach and the sporting director.

“I thought I was never going to play. As soon as I got back on the pitch, it was a successful season.

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French football expert Jonathan Johnson analyses Mbappe’s move to Real Madrid on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain

“In the way I played, I’m very proud of the year just gone, even if technically or performance-wise it’s not at my usual standards. But looking at everything I had to go through just to play, everything I had to be subjected to throughout the year, it’s the best season of my career.”

Mbappe added he was never unhappy at PSG – though did say certain individuals made life at the Parc des Princes unpleasant for him.

“At PSG, I wasn’t unhappy,” he claimed. “Saying I was would be spitting in the soup, spitting in the faces of those who defended me and supported me. I was always happy at PSG but it’s clear there were things and people there that made me unhappy.

Kylian Mbappe is set to have crucial talks over his Paris Saint-Germain future this week
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Mbappe was left out of PSG’s first team by senior figures at the start of the season

“And nobody there would say I was unhappy because I was a leader in the team and someone for people to follow and we don’t follow someone who drags their feet. It’s difficult to follow someone like that.

“I tried to be as positive as possible. And all the coaches, the players, everyone at the club really helped me.

“Excuse the impression, it’s an angry way of saying it, but I would be a b****** to come here and say, having joined a new club, that I was unhappy at PSG with all the people who are there. But there were things there that made me unhappy for sure.

“But there’s worse things in the world. That’s football. I was always told growing up to never show up and start crying. I’m extremely well paid for someone in football compared to others in the game. There are others who have a job who earn less than me, who go to factories every day. I’ve never had to wake up and go to a factory.

“What I’ve experienced, I will carry on. It’s quite inappropriate for me, Kylian Mbappé, to come here complain in front of the world when horrible things are happening in the world. There are worse things, but it wasn’t pleasant for me either. But that’s how I’ve grown up, it’s in my nature.”

‘This season is no excuses ahead of Euros’

12th Trophee des Champions title match - Paris Saint-Germain vs Toulouse ** STORY AVAILABLE, CONTACT SUPPLIER** Featuring: Kylian Mbappe Where: Paris, Ile-de-France (region), France When: 03 Jan 2024 Credit: Le Pictorium/Cover Images **ONLY AVAILABLE FOR PUBLICATION IN THE UK**  (Cover Images via AP Images)
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Mbappe is set to lead France into their Euro 2024 campaign

Mbappe signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid but the focus will now be on trying to secure a European Championship for France.

The France captain says his tumultuous season just gone will not be an excuse for any performances for his country this summer – as he vowed to “bring the trophy home”.

“It’s a great relief. I am very happy,” said Mbappe when asked about his Madrid move. “That’s something you can easily see on my face. Like I said, it’s something I’ve always wanted so I am happy.

“Before the end of the season, I didn’t play that much. Everyone knows why I didn’t play so much. But there you go, you have to adapt. There are difficulties you have to overcome when you’re a player. But that’s absolutely not going to be an excuse for the tournament ahead.

“I’m in a good moment physically, the team and the manager thinks so too, so I’m going to find the best form possible and my objective is to put the team in the best possible position at the Euros. We want to bring the trophy home.

“A happy man is more likely to play better than a sad one. But it’s not excuse for the performances I’ve done, nor for the ones I’m going to have. It’s just a feeling I have now, that I’m really happy.

“Now, just because I smile doesn’t mean we’re going to win matches, right? There’s a job to do, everyone has to work and especially me first. But of course, I’m coming into these games in a good and enthusiastic mood.”

How will Mbappe fit in Real Madrid’s attack?

Jude Bellingham slipped in Vinicius Jr to score and Real Madrid’s key forward pair had done it. A Champions League trophy delivered without a recognised, world-class No 9 in the team.

All the talk before, during and after Saturday’s win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley surrounded how Carlo Ancelotti has masterminded another Real success having lost Karim Benzema last summer to Saudi Arabia. Now the talk is about how another French forward can take them to another level.

Kylian Mbappe will arrive at Real Madrid having snubbed the Spanish giants three times. Once after a trial with Real’s U12 team, then twice to favour PSG in 2017 and 2022. Now he will arrive at the Bernabeu when his new side need him most.

“The only thing we’re missing is that clinical nine,” said Bellingham after Saturday’s Champions League final.

“If he was to come and give us that, we would be in a really great place to go and take us to another level. One of the best players in the world!”

Real will now have their world-class No 9 – arguably one of the best out there. The problem is, what happens to players like Vinicius and Bellingham following their heroics not just at Wembley, but all through the season?

Ancelotti reacted to the loss of Benzema by not directly replacing him, instead adopting a 4-3-1-2 formation, using Vinicius and Rodrygo as ‘split forwards’ who adopt wide areas – allowing new signing Bellingham to venture in a free role behind them at the tip of a midfield diamond.

It is a front three that will not be broken up in terms of transfer sales. Vinicius and Bellingham – with 24 and 23 goals respectively this season – were the two most important players for Real this season. Rodrygo, despite rumours linking him with a move, has vowed to stay in the Spanish capital next season.

But Mbappe is now set to be the jewel in Real’s shining crown, following his 256 goals in 308 games in the French capital. Yet how does PSG’s old No 7 become Real Madrid’s main man, and not take anything away from current Real No 7 Vinicius, who is arguably one of the best players in the world?

An issue could arise given Mbappe and Vinicius both played in the same position this season – and the Brazilian is not going to budge.

“Vinicius has really made the left-hand side his. That is his best position,” Spanish football journalist Semra Hunter told Sky Sports News.

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Mbappe and Vinicius’ heatmap in the Champions League this season

“Let’s work under the premise that Ancelotti is going to stick with a 4-4-2 next season, with Jude Bellingham at the top of the midfield diamond.

“That means Vinicius and Mbappe can start in a two-pronged attack, like what Vinicius and Rodrygo have been doing this season.”

Replacing Rodrygo will not be an easy decision for Ancelotti, given the Brazilian forward’s key role in Real’s recent Champions League successes.

The Italian manager would be omitting the player who scored in both legs of this season’s quarter-final victory over Manchester City, one that all but made the Champions League Real’s to lose. And will Mbappe even accept Rodrygo’s current role as ‘right forward’ to accommodate Vinicius?

There is the argument that Rodrygo barely plays on the right wing, despite being the ‘right forward’. Two seasons ago, Ancelotti said the 23-year-old has “so much potential as a centre forward or a second striker”, implying his role in Real’s 4-3-1-2 is as central as it looks – making it perfect for Mbappe, who always preferred the No 9 role to a wide one at PSG.

Or could all four – Mbappe, Vinicius, Rodrygo and Bellingham – play together in an ultra-attacking Ancelotti plan? He adopted a 4-3-3 formation at Real Madrid for years before Benzema’s departure, so it would not be an alien move.

“Rodrygo is more tactically flexible – he can play on the right, left or as a No 10,” added Hunter.

“He could play 4-3-3, with Mbappe in the middle and Vinicius and Rodrygo on the wings. But that means he would have to sacrifice a midfielder and they are so stacked in that area. I don’t see that happening too often.”

Mbappe is not the only new arrival at Real this summer, with Brazilian starlet Endrick also putting another dazzling option among the ranks. Given the 17-year-old’s heroics to date for club and country, do not be surprised if he has something to say in this debate.

But the teenager will develop in his own time while the world watches Mbappe. He is the man Real Madrid are bringing in to dominate Europe.

And if they are winning Champions League titles without him, what are the Spanish giants going to achieve with him?