Vinicius Junior finishes season in style to edge ahead in Ballon d'Or race

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr (23) put himself in strong contention to win the Ballon d'Or award for the best player in the world and add to his growing trophy cabinet after scoring in another Champions League final on Saturday.

The Brazilian netted Real's second goal against Borussia Dortmund late on at Wembley to secure a 2-0 win and a record-extending 15th European crown for the Spanish side - as well as capping another brilliant season for the superstar.

"Ballon d'Or! Vinicius Jr has just taken the Ballon d'Or," former England defender Rio Ferdinand said in his role as a TV pundit as Vinicius celebrated his goal.

Vinicius Junior finishes season in style to edge ahead in Ballon d'Or race

"He has the Ballon d'Or in the bag now. Wow. At the biggest moments of the Champions League this season, Vinicius Jr has stepped up."

After crowning his breakthrough season with the winner in Real's 14th European Cup win over Liverpool in Paris two years ago, Vinicius finishes this campaign with six goals in the Champions League and 15 in LaLiga, which Real also won.

His total haul of 24 goals in all competitions means it is the Brazilian's most prolific season since he signed from Flamengo in 2018. In that time he has won three LaLiga titles, two Champions Leagues, a Spanish Cup and two Club World Cup crowns.

"Vinicius (for the) Ballon d'Or? No question about it," his manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters after the game.

Another favourite for the award is Real midfielder Jude Bellingham, who has had a remarkable breakthrough season in Madrid since his 103-million-euro ($111.50-million) move from Dortmund last year.

The Englishman exceeded expectations to help his team claim a record-extending 36th Spanish league title, scoring 19 goals to finish as LaLiga's third-highest goalscorer, level with Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski.

He was also the provider at Wembley for Vinicius to become the first Brazilian to score in two Champions League finals.

Bellingham later interrupted his teammate's post-match interview with Brazilian TV shouting in Portuguese "assistencia bonitinha (cute assist)" before they both embraced while laughing.

"This is what this team is all about, it's a tight group in which everyone speaks every language and everyone needs to learn every language," Vinicius told TNT Sports.

Both players will be strong favourites for the award and Bellingham can enhance his case at the European Championship in Germany with England. Vinicius, meanwhile, will feature for Brazil at the Copa America.

However, Vinicius was more concerned about enjoying the moment rather than potential individual accolades.

"I don't care about the Ballon d'Or, people close to me and around me tell me that I'm the best and I believe it. That's good for me," Vinicius said during the celebrations at Wembley.

"I am very happy to win my second Champions League and to continue making history with this team that has won it so many times. I just want to keep going and enjoy the ride."


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