Lun. Jul 15th, 2024

Publicidad

lt’s more than 20 years since Brazil last won the World Cup. But their clubs have now won the Copa Libertadores five times in a row — an unprecedented domination, underlining the point that the giant country continues to be an excellent producer of footballing talent.

This is a look at the next generation, ranking 21 home-based players aged 21 or under who are going places. Most of them are attackers, who tend to mature quicker, and a fair few have little experience behind them because the process works so fast.

The big European cubs are always looking to sign teenagers so they can play a greater role in their development: 22 is often seen as a cut-off point. Murillo of Nottingham Forest might be an extreme example, as he played 25 games in Corinthians’ first team before he moved to the Premier League, but young talent is quickly whisked away. Brazilian football is no longer moving on its best players, but it is saying a quick farewell to its biggest promises. And, as always, the transfer of one player opens up opportunities for others.

Notes:
– Players included must be age 21 or under on Nov. 30.
– Transfer values are taken from Transfermarkt. A * symbol indicates a fee a player has moved already.

– Positions are: GK (goalkeeper), LB (left-back), RB (right-back), CB (centre-back), DM (defensive midfield), CM (central midfield), AM (attacking midfield), FW (forward), ST (striker.)

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)


The List

Club: Atletico Mineiro
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €300K

A rangy striker who has been a consistent scorer at youth levels and is now starting to get opportunities with the first team. He also has a Croatian passport.

Strengths: Isaac has a physical presence and, disappointingly rare in Brazilian football, is comfortable on either foot.

How he can improve: As yet there is very little to go on, meaning that stories of an imminent move to the Premier League come across as premature.

Club: Flamengo
Age: 20
Estimated transfer value: €150K

A central midfielder, he was part of the Brazil under-20 team that recently won the gold medal in the Pan-American Games.

Strengths: Jesus has a well-built figure with a solid all-round game and a fierce shot.

How he can improve: The depth of the Flamengo squad makes it hard for him to get a regular game, and it could stall his career as a consequence.

Club: Internacional
Age: 20
Estimated transfer value: €700K

A centre-forward, Lucca was promoted to the senior ranks after prolific scoring at youth level.

Strengths: Lucca is a strong, well-balanced striker who is mobile enough to work the channels, good in the air and can shoot with his left as well as his natural right foot.

How he can improve: He’s found life much harder against physically stronger defenders at senior level, and the signing of Enner Valencia makes it harder to get in the starting XI.

Club: Vasco da Gama
Age: 21
Estimated transfer value: €6m

Praxedes is a central midfielder on loan from Red Bull Bragantino after making his name with Internacional.

Strengths: He’s a tall, elegant left-footed midfielder with a neat pass-and-move game. He has the potential to dominate matches from the heart of the pitch, and is reminiscent of a left-footed version of former Argentina international Lucho Gonzalez.

How he can improve: Bragantino paid big money for him, but decided to loan him out — evidence that he is not developing as they had hoped and perhaps lacks dynamism.

Club: Gremio
Age: 18
Estimated transfer value: €100K

A sensation in Gremio’s youth sides who has recently been promoted to the senior squad, where he has been making an impact off the bench.

Strengths: Fernandes has pace, one-vs.-one trickery and can operate across the entire attacking line. He played most of his youth football on the left wing, also moving into the centre-forward position, and has figured as a sub on the right wing in the senior side.

How he can improve: A very young talent, Gremio are aware he will need to be brought along slowly.

Club: Santos
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €300K

A left-sided player who has broken into the first team and is holding up well amid his team’s battle against relegation.

Strengths: He’s lithe and is a quick figure with a neat left foot who can play at left wing-back, in midfield and perhaps as an orthodox left-back as well. He also has good lung power and some creative touches.

How he can improve: He’s been guilty of the occasional lapse in concentration and his decision making needs improving.

Club: Corinthians
Age: 18
Estimated transfer value: €2m

Yet another inverted winger, a type of player Brazil has been producing in abundance over the last few years. Right-footed, but most often seen on the left. He’s been around the first-team squad for over a year now, picking up experience for what promises to be an interesting 2024.

Strengths: Gassova is a powerful runner with good dribbling skills and an eye for goal.

Weaknesses: Like so many of the inverted wingers, his weaker foot needs attention.

Club: Gremio
Age: 20
Estimated transfer value: €800K

A tall defensive midfielder — who also qualifies to play internationally for Poland — he was part of this year’s Brazil U20 squad and won the gold medal in the Pan American Games. He’s been easing his way into first-team consideration over the last few months.

Strengths: Ronald is a physically imposing figure who is good in the air in both penalty areas.

How he can improve: He lacks an imaginative range of passing, and it might not be a surprise if he is ultimately converted to a centre-back.

Club: Botafogo
Age: 21
Estimated transfer value: €6m

A winger who just qualifies for this list (he turns 22 in December). Back at Botafogo after falling short of expectations with Marseille in France, he has responded well in his club’s title challenge.

Strengths: He’s fast, powerful, direct and also able to cut in from the left on to his stronger right foot and shoot at goal. He’s well-suited to Botafogo’s game plan.

How he can improve: He’s yet to develop the subtlety to break down defences that don’t give him the space he needs to build up acceleration.

Club: Athletico Paranaense
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €1.2m

Mycael is the latest in his club’s outstanding production line of goalkeepers. First choice for the national team at U20 level this year and the hero of the recent Pan-American Games.

Strengths: Tall, athletic and brave, Mycael seems to have almost all of the fundamentals, and his time with the national team has given him experience of the big occasion.

How he can improve: The decision of when to come and when to stay on his line is a challenge for every young keeper, but Mycael’s main obstacle is the difficulty of getting a game at a club that has so many options.

Club: Vasco da Gama
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €4m

A key member of the Brazil U20 team and a leading product of Vasco’s impressive youth development work. He helped the team win promotion back to the first division last year.

Strengths: A midfielder who is sharp, mobile and technically adept, he can play central or wide, and stands out for a pass-and-move game that is surprisingly mature. Has a touch of Manchester United’s Mason Mount about him.

How he can improve: He needs to show that he is not too lightweight to compete at the top level. Has been hampered by the turbulence of his club’s fight for first division survival this year, with coaching changes and new signings impacting his growth.

Club: Fluminense
Age: 20
Estimated transfer value: €4m

Injury took him out of the U20 World Cup and also interrupted his momentum just as he was becoming vital for Fluminense. He will surely have a key role to play in the side next year.

Strengths: Alexsander may not be the most glamorous of players, but his all round virtues make him a coach’s dream. He first appeared for his club at left-back, featured off the main striker for Brazil’s U20s, then settled in as a midfielder, where his versatility and intelligence enabled him to cover the forward runs of Marcelo and also link up with the attack.

How he can improve: His versatility could be a problem if it prevents him from consolidating a firm identity. But the main headache has been an injury that interrupted his momentum and kept him on the bench in the closing stages of the Copa Libertadores.

Club: Palmeiras
Age: 17
Estimated transfer value: €7m

A winger of huge potential, he picked up big-game experience this season and big things are expected in 2024.

Strengths: A left-footed winger who plays on the right. He has searing acceleration, tight dribbling skills, intimidating power and a creative left foot.

How he can improve: He needs to improve his right foot. At the moment if he can’t beat his marker for pace, he can be neutralised by showing him out towards the touchline.

Club: Corinthians
Age: 18
Estimated transfer value: €1.5m

A tall, well-built central midfielder who has made a name for himself since being introduced to the first team at the end of June. He looks a little like a prototype of Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice.

Strengths: Strong on the ball, he can carry it forward and has the ability to play crisp, forward passes and link the team together.

How he can improve: His defensive positioning is still raw, drawing him into rash challenges. In such a key zone of the field picking the right pass is understandably a challenge for a player still finding his way in an unconvincing team.

Club: Flamengo
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €3m

In a bad year for the Rio de Janeiro giants, one of the positives has been the emergence of this tall, elegant left-footed midfielder. Hugo played his best football so far under Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Strengths: Not necessarily the most immediately eye catching of players, Hugo is a central midfielder able to take responsibility on the ball. He turns well, keeps possession ticking over and has the capacity to break into the penalty area, where he also offers a threat in the air.

How he can improve: He is not the quickest and the defensive side of his game could be improved, but his main problems come from the turbulent atmosphere at his club, with three coaches plus a stand-in already this year. The depth of the squad also makes it hard for him to get a game if he falls out of favour.

Club: Sao Paulo
Age: 19
Estimated transfer value: €6m

A centre-back who won a first-team place this year and established himself en route to winning the Brazilian Cup.

Strengths: He has an undoubted touch of class on the ball, and his left-foot helps open up possibilities for playing a pass out of defence.

How he can improve: Beraldo can fall into the trap of the centre-back who looks better than he is. Is he strong enough physically to defend at the highest level? It is interesting that Nottingham Forest’s search for a left-sided defender saw them choose Murillo, who has fewer games under his belt, over Beraldo. But Liverpool have also been linked recently.

Club: Sao Paulo
Age: 21
Estimated transfer value: €7m

His second full season in the Sao Paulo first team has been a triumph for Maia, who has shown excellent progress anchoring the midfield in the side that won the Brazilian Cup.

Strengths: He contributes when his side have possession by positioning himself behind the ball, making himself available to receive it and play probing passes forward.

How he can improve: Maia needs to impose his presence on the game more to win the ball back.

Club: Fluminense
Age: 21
Estimated transfer value: €4m

A live-wire striker who decided the Copa Libertadores with a late goal and came up big in the previous knockout rounds. He made his Fluminense debut as a 17-year-old before the COVID-19 pandemic — and it seems it has taken him years to become an overnight sensation.

Strengths: A quick, mobile and direct striker who excels on the shoulder of the last defender, posing questions and looking to fire off shots before the keeper has settled. And as his winner in the Libertadores final showed, he can also start moves with his back to goal.

How he can improve: The red card he picked up for celebrating his Libertadores goal may have been a little harsh, but it was also naive and serves as an example of a difficult temperament which has not been easy to handle. How will he fare away from the understanding embrace of coach Fernando Diniz?

Club: Santos
Age: 20
Estimated transfer value: €17m

If Pele’s old club do not suffer an unprecedented relegation in the first season after the death of the great man, then much of that will be down to Leonardo. Despite missing a few rounds of the campaign to star in the U20 World Cup, his goals have kept Santos afloat. But he will surely not be around next year for a repeat performance.

Strengths: Leonardo is a squat, penalty-area operator who is adept at finding space and whose finishing can be both clinical and explosive. Has the air of a young Sergio Aguero.

How he can improve: His many suitors may be considering if he is too much of a luxury player, and if he offers enough outside the penalty area. He really needs to improve his all-round contribution.

Club: Athletico Paranaense
Age: 18
Estimated transfer value: €40m*

Off to Barcelona soon, perhaps as soon as January, Roque has already played in a Libertadores final, been top scorer in the South American U20 Championships and made his senior Brazil debut. He is undoubtedly one of the country’s biggest hopes, not least because he plays in a position which has surprisingly been a problem for the national team for a number of years.

Strengths: Brazilian football has been producing plenty of strikers who operate in wide spaces, but there has been a real dearth of centre-forwards who combine mobility, physicality and technique. Roque seems to tick all of these boxes. He is strong and quick, has penalty area presence, can run at defences from deep and is one of the top scorers in the Brazilian Championship this season.

How he can improve: He can give a platform for his midfielders, but there is — understandably — room for improvement with his back to goal. But the main thing that might be categorised as a weakness is the unknown. How will he fare in top-class European football when he is up against quicker and better defenders?

Club: Palmeiras
Age: 17
Estimated transfer value: €72m*

Another breathtaking talent who will be on his way to Real Madrid for €72m in the middle of next year when he turns 18. A stocky left-footed support striker, Endrick came to the world’s attention with a series of incredible goals in a national U20 competition when he was 15. And he was just handed his first senior call-up to the Brazil national team.

Strengths: His natural talent is clear, but there is much more. He has a sense of audacity, a willingness to try things, the vision to make them happen quickly and a devastating burst of acceleration. But he also has a rare appreciation of space which means that he can attack the penalty area and score guided headers and tap-ins as well as the wonder goals that have made his name. He looks like a truly special talent.

How he can improve: The big question mark is how a teenager can deal with the hype that has surrounded him. Indeed, in his first full senior campaign there have been times when he has looked a little lost. But he roared into top gear recently, and the way he took responsibility to turn a 3-0 loss against Botafogo into a 4-3 win will live long in the memory.

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