As the 2017 Brasileirao season has finished, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to recognize the accomplishments of tomorrow’s stars under our Talent Radar banner, with the U-23 Team of the Season feature.
Corinthians won its seventh national title with a considerable amount of comfort, thanks to an overwhelming beginning to the campaign. But this doesn’t mean the Brasileirão 2017 was a tournament with few interesting things as young players appeared and developed on this edition. When names such as Igor Rabello (Botafogo), Murilo (Cruzeiro), Douglas Luiz (Vasco), Wendel (Fluminense), David (Vitória) and Vinícius Júnior (Flamengo) all miss out on the Young Team of the Year, you know that young talent and power overflowed on Brazilian fields.
Jean // Bahia // 22 // Goalkeeper: Some say that is almost impossible to make a great impact in Brazil if you don’t play in the ‘axis’ (Rio and São Paulo clubs), but Jean certainly did it. And playing for Bahia, a team that was far from being one of the favourites for the top of the table, meant Jean had to work a lot. The team conceded a lot of goals, but it could have been really worse if not for Jean who made the second highest number of saves in the season. And impressively he also had 10 clean sheets (two of them in memorable matches against Cruzeiro and Bahia’s rival, Vitória). Jean is also practicing a lot of free kicks, however this is not the main reason São Paulo is looking for him, it would be interesting to see this boy emulating the historic icon Rogério Ceni next year. He is also really good with his reflexes and coming off the line to close the distance to the attacker.
Eder Militão // São Paulo // 19 // Right back: This was the most difficult position to fill this year owing to the dearth of options, but this does not diminish Eder’s competence. São Paulo had a terrible year defensively and had to use a center back to correct a problematic sector. Julio Buffarini, Libertadores champion with San Lorenzo, made lots of mistakes and Bruno wasn’t good enough to replace him, but Eder showed a strong character and impressive maturity during a tempestuous period. Hernanes had an enormous influence on the team, helping them to avoid a shameful relegation, but if he was the Messiah, Eder Militão was, at least, a very active apostle. Just what São Paulo needed in that moment. And he also scored two winning goals against Vitória and Coritiba.
Lucas Veríssimo // Santos // 22 // Center back: Santos has always been synonymous with offensive football, but in this Brasileirão the black and white club had the 2nd best defense, conceding only 32 goals in 38 games. Two names, among others, are the heroes of this accomplishment: Vanderlei and Lucas Veríssimo. The first one is an awesome goalkeeper and the second one a really promising center-back. He was elected the man of the match against Cruzeiro, Palmeiras and Ponte Preta and was the leader of the tournament in terms of clearances, with a rate of 8.6 per game!
Yerry Mina // Palmeiras // 23 // Center back: When you watch this Colombian defender on the field it’s hard to convince yourself that he’s only 23 years old. First of all because of his physicality (1,95m), but also because of his behavior when he faces attackers in one-on-one clashes. He is much faster than his height suggests and can be tough when the situation asks. The headed goals are another thing part of his package, which also boasts of extra-motivated exhibitions in important matches and derbies. His move to Barcelona would have surprised none of his regular watchers.
Guilherme Arana // Corinthians // 20 // Left back: Arana maybe was below his level for a good part of the second half of the season, but what this guy played during the first round was something beyond this planet. With his attacking DNA he scored twice, gave 4 assists and created numerous chances for Corinthians. And with his defensive development he was also important to the club’s title ensuring that Corinthians conceded the fewest goals (30 in 38 games). Corinthians’ first loss only came on Matchday 20 and Arana was a pivotal figure in the group. A deal with Sevilla is already done and he is definitely ready for a bright start in La Liga.
Matheus Fernandes // Botafogo // 19 // Central Midfielder: 2017 was a year when Botafogo was noticed for its collective game. No big names, but an incredible tactical awareness and total commitment of the players. Matheus is not that kind of player who entertains as a showman and gives unforgettable moments to the crowd, but it’s unusual to find a player of 19-years-old with so much consistency and showing a constant feeling of calm. He tackles easily, being called by the fans as ‘Tackle King’, and then can distribute the ball very efficiently. When Airton got injured the supporters thought this would be a huge blow as the first choice was Dudu Cearense, but many of them forgot their worries as soon as Matheus had played a few games.
Arthur // Grêmio // 21 // Central Midfielder: Probably the icing on the cake of this young team, it’s very unlikely that Arthur himself imagined a glorious year like he had. The boy is a box-to-box midfielder by nature, but this doesn’t mean his game is based exclusively on physical aspects. Beyond the runs, good ball touch and intensity, Arthur began to show himself as a great conductor. Not only were his passes delivered right very often, but they also defined Grêmio’s tempo. So much quality attracted Tite’s attention and Arthur has already been called up to the Brazilian National Team. An injury in the Copa Libertadores final left him out of the FIFA Club World Cup, but if he comes back at the same level he was, the boy can even dream with a place in the next World Cup with Brazil.
Luiz Fernando // Atlético-GO // 21 // Attacking Midfielder: Can you believe the team that finished the year at the bottom of table has a huge reason to celebrate? The first half of the Brasileirão sealed Atlético’s demotion to Serie B, but in the second half the team had some really good games and so did Luiz. Before facing Bahia, on Matchday 23, the boy had scored only one goal, but at the end of the 38 fixtures he had nine! Most of times he played as a left midfielder on a 4-2-3-1, but always with lots of presence in the opposite box. A final important point: he prefers to use the right foot, but can work with the left with same quality, so it’s hard to imagine and anticipate his plays.
Gustavo Scarpa // Fluminense // 23 // Attacking Midfielder: Scarpa’s life in 2017 can be defined as a roller-coaster: intense, with some big falls, but also great climbs. In January he was called up for a Brazil friendly against Colombia after scoring 4 goals in the first 5 games of the year. One of them, an epic shot from his own field. Then came 80 days out of action due to a serious injury, a drop in his performances and boos from his own supporters, but Fluminense is a completely different team with him and the main reasons are his passes and organization. His skills to create chances got him on the top of assists table for the second year in a row. He made 16 goal-passes in 2016 and 12 this season.
Everton // Grêmio // 21 // Forward: Grêmio had a pretty tough challenge this year: have a group of players with enough quality to fight for Brasileirão and Libertadores titles with not much money. During this run Pedro Rocha was sold and Lucas Barríos got injured, so someone else had to prevent things from falling apart. Everton was a luxurious substitute, scoring 8 goals. Three of them were against Chapecoense, in a game he just played the second half. Luan is still the man on this team, but in case of emergency Everton can help a lot.
Richarlison // Fluminense // 20 // Forward – I know. Richarlison left Brazil in the middle of the year to play for Watford. But he didn’t start to play so well in England, suddenly and magically. He was great in Campeonato Carioca and even better in Brasileirão. He was perfect in the second striker role, helping the tournament top scorer Henrique Dourado, and added many things to Fluminense’s left side, with speed, constant movement and power. There was also times when he had to be the target man and did not disappoint.
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