Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti believes Vinicius Jr is fully focused on football despite being targeted with racist abuse, and backed him to show his quality against Liverpool once again on Tuesday.
The Brazil international, who has scored three goals in his last three meetings with Jurgen Klopp’s side – including the winner in May’s Champions League final – has found himself the subject of sickening insults in Spain.
It has included a mannequin wearing the player’s shirt being hung from a bridge outside Madrid’s training ground last month.
But Ancelotti has backed the 22-year-old to overcome the abuse and elevate himself into the top echelon of world football.
“I hope they are working on this the people that have to be involved in this,” said Ancelotti ahead of their last-16 Champions League tie at Anfield.
“I think racism is a really serious topic, there is no law that can change the behaviour of an individual person.
“You can only change people through culture, a common purpose and feeling of humanity. Don’t blame Spain for this, it happened in every country.
“Vini is managing really well, he is focused on the game and loves to play football and this doesn’t affect on the pitch.
“When games are important we see the best of him and it is obviously going to be a big game tomorrow.
“At the moment it is wonderful to be watching Vinicius as every football fan likes his quality.
“They like to see Pedri, Gavi, (Kylian) Mbappe – Vinicius is up there with these players and we can enjoy quality players like that.”
Klopp was asked earlier whether the actions of Vinicius on the pitch could be construed as antagonistic.
“Racism? There is nothing in the world that could justify that, whatever he’s doing on the pitch,” said the Liverpool manager.
“It would be nothing. Imagine I would say ‘Yes, this part of his game could cause it’. That’s completely insane. No, nothing. He is a world-class player.”
Ahead of the first leg Ancelotti did not want to dwell too much on last May’s final victory at the Stade de France, where Liverpool played well but found goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in great form.
Asked whether he was concerned about being put under pressure again he added: “I’m worried more about Madrid. I’m concentrating more on ourselves.
“Whether it is Salah, Van Dijk. I want Madrid to worry Liverpool, not the other way around.
“I don’t think Liverpool have ever changed their quality. We expect a tense game, we will be under pressure a lot, a game where you don’t have time to breathe and we know very well what to expect and we are well prepared for that.”
Veteran Real midfielder Luka Modric won his fifth Champions League title in Paris last summer but with the 37-year-old playmaker approaching the end of his contract he still does not know whether this will be his last hurrah with the LaLiga club.
“About my new contract, I can’t tell you anything about it as I’ve not spoken to the club yet,” said the Croatia international.
“You don’t have these conversations mid-season, I’m very relaxed. I’m not annoyed by it whatsoever.
“It’s a bit boring getting asked that question because it’s the same answer: ‘I want to carry on here, I want to stay, I feel good and I want to continue as part of Real Madrid’.
“I’d like to deserve to stay on my own merit, not that someone gives it on a freebie.
“No-one has given me anything for free in my career and I don’t want that to happen now.
“If the club want to give me a contract then great but only on merit, only on what I do now, not what I have achieved and my history. Let’s see what happens.”