Tom Robinson profiles 10 young players to watch out for in the Brasileirao.
Despite being one of the hardest hit countries by the Coronavirus pandemic, Brazil was one of the first on the continent to get football going again. The Brasileirão kicked off in early August and hasn’t been without drama, with reigning champions Flamengo losing their first two games, not to mention the last minute suspension of Goias against Sao Paulo.
While the rights and wrongs of football returning to action can be debated, one thing you can’t deny is the number of exciting young talents that will be once again thrust into the spotlight. Last year Rodrygo, Reinier, Bruno Guimarães and Antony all impressed before big money moves to Europe and there’ll be plenty more who join them in the near future.
Here we look at a handful of some of the best up-and-coming prospects who look set to light up the Brasileirão this year
Talles Magno // 18 // Vasco da Gama
An elegant, unique and skilful forward, Talles Magno was part of the Brazil side that won U17 World Cup last year and is reportedly attracting admiring glances from none other than Liverpool. The 18-year-old grew up round the corner from the Estadio Sao Januario and is now dazzling the Vasco faithful with his invention and audacity.
Typically a left-sided wide forward but able to play anywhere across the front line, Talles Magno is equal parts scorer and creator as he effortless glides past defenders with his sublime footwork and slips in delicate through-balls. But there is a steel and determination to his game too, making it hard to muscle him off the ball. Although he only has two goals in twenty odd appearances for Vasco, his blend of technical and physical qualities make him a joy to watch and his potential is limitless. Those at Vasco agree, as demonstrated by his €50million release clause, and hope that he and fellow prospect Andrey can elevate them above mid-table mediocrity this season.
Matheus Henrique // 22 // Gremio
In recent years Gremio have had a steady stream of exciting prospects coming through the ranks. The likes of Luan, Arthur and Everton have starred for the Imortal Tricolor and the production line isn’t showing signs of slowing up. Jean Pyerre (22) and Pepe (23) are regulars, while Darlan Mendes (22) and Patrick (21) are seeing more game time too. But it is 22-year-old defensive midfielder Matheus Henrique who looks like the pick of the crop.
Having impressed at Sao Caetano, Henrique had to bide his time and fight for his place but the departure of Arthur presented a chance and last year he made 20 league appearances, plus another nine in the Libertadores. A regular for the Brazil U23s alongside Bruno Guimarães, the hard-working, energetic shuttler demonstrated his range of passing, ball retention (92.5% pass completion on average) and ability to evade the press, which even earned him a call up to the full national team. He will no doubt be at the heart of things as Gremio look to challenge both domestically and continentally.
Matias Viña // 22 // Palmeiras
The 22-year-old Uruguayan left back was arguably the best player in the Uruguayan Primera in 2019, helping Nacional to the title and in the process making a claim to be a starter for the national team. A member of the U20 Sudamericano winning side including Valverde and Bentancur, Viña has developed into a well-rounded full back who is both strong defensively and aerially, as well as being a powerful runner who offers a potent attacking threat.
Viña has made an instant impact for Palmeiras and has already started to repay the €5.5mil they paid for his services with an assist in the Paulista final against Corinthians. Vanderlei Luxemburgo will be hoping Viña can strengthen Palmeiras at both ends of the pitch as they look to improve on last year’s third place finish, while it’s also worth keeping an eye on the likes of midfield duo Gabriel Menino (19) and Patrick de Paula (20), electric Colombian winger Ivan Angulo (21) and wonderkid forward Gabriel Veron (17).
Kaio Jorge // 18 // Santos
The 18-year-old striker is the latest strike sensation out of Vila Belmiro hoping to follow in the footsteps of former graduates Robinho, Neymar and Rodrygo. Another key member of the Brazil U17 World Cup winning squad, Kaio Jorge scored five times in seven games and picked up the Bronze Boot award.
An all-round forward with great movement, sharp finishing and excellent technique, he was the sixth youngest debutant in the club’s history and also netted the winner on his Copa Libertadores debut against Defensa y Justicia earlier this year. With a number of Europe’s top clubs monitoring his every move, it should be the year he consolidates himself as Santos’ main man up front and along with the creativity of Yefferson Soteldo – plus Renyer and Sandry breaking through – there is a noticeable youthful impetus to the squad.
Ederson // 21 // Corinthians
Dubbed the next Paulinho, box-to-box midfielder Ederson could be one of the revelations of the Brasileirão this year. Corinthians moved quickly to sign the 21-year-old on a free after he left relegated Cruzeiro, having sued them for unpaid wages, and he hit the ground running with three goals in seven games during the Campeonato Paulista. A powerful and muscular presence in the centre of the park, Ederson has also shown his penchant for driving forward and unleashing low driven shots from range, on top of the noteworthy defensive side to his game too.
He will have his work cut out to displace either the impressive Colombian Victor Cantillo or the experienced Gabriel but he will nevertheless add some youthful cut-and-thrust to Corinthians’ deep-lying midfield options. Honourable mentions to Meteus Vital, who will look to step out of Pedrinho’s shadow, and young defenders Lucas Piton and Bruno Mendez.
Guga // 21 // At Mineiro
One of the surprise early pacesetters so far, Atletico Mineiro could be a dark horse in the Brasileirão under the charismatic guidance of Jorge Sampaoli. Galo’s squad is brimming with interesting young prospects such as Ecuadorian midfielder Alan Franco, Venezuelan playmaker Jefferson Savarino, new signing Marrony, and Guilherme Arana on loan from Sevilla. However, 21-year-old right back Guga is arguably the most intriguing of the bunch.
Having impressed for Avai in the second division in 2018, Mineiro signed him last year and his solid performances have seen him represent Brazil at U22 and U23 level. A lovely crosser and comfortable on the ball, Guga loves to get forward in true Brazilian fashion and has the secret weapon of a deceptively long throw-in up his sleeve. Linked to the likes of Spartak, Galatasaray and reigning champions Flamengo, the up-and-coming full back is in demand and will be key to Mineiro’s chances of upsetting the odds this year.
Bruno Praxedes // 18 // Internacional
Despite the departure of promising 21-year-old centre back Bruno Fuchs to CSKA Moscow, there is another youngster named Bruno ready to take up his mantle as Internacional’s next best prospect. A breakout star of the famous annual Sao Paulo-based Copinha youth tournament, Praxedes was fast-tracked to the first team and has already got minutes in the Campeonato Gaucho, Libertadores and now Brasileirão. The 18-year-old is a tall, elegant central midfielder who orchestrates his team’s play with his excellent range of passing and eye for a defence-splitting through ball.
While Praxedes is still far from being a regular starter, this could be the year he announces himself and he heads up an exciting cohort of exciting Internacional youngsters. Midfielder Nonato (22), right back Heitor (19) and U17 World Cup winner Joao Peglow (18) should all get regular game time, while Cesinha (19) and highly-rated Vinicius Tobias (16) are also waiting in the wings.
Luis Henrique // 18 // Botafogo
Most of Botafogo’s pre-season centred around the signings of big foreign imports Solomon Kalou and Keisuke Honda, not to mention the failed pursuit of Yaya Toure, but perhaps the most exciting player on their books is 18-year-old forward Luis Henrique. Despite having just a handful of games under his belt, the jet-heeled left winger is already rumoured to have attracted the attention of Juventus among others.
Henrique has the lighting pace of a 100m sprinter, dazzling footwork and, crucially, the bravado that torments opposition defenders and makes him a joy to watch when he has space to run into. While not the finished article, the potential is clear to see and as such Henrique has a €30mil release clause. Given the way Brazilian football can make names in an instant and then see them disappear to Europe in the next, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Luis Henrique making a move before he’s even an established regular in Brazil.
Igor Gomes // 21 // Sao Paulo
You can always rely on Sao Paulo and their famed academy to give youth a chance and their current squad does not disappoint. One player who looks as if he’ll have an increasingly important role this season is versatile attacking midfielder Igor Gomes. The 21-year-old possesses great vision, exquisite passing and a smooth running style, which has seen him compared to Kaka – even by the man himself.
Often the man who gets the pre-assist, Gomes played 27 times last year season but will look to stamp his authority on the side and become a guaranteed starter this season. Honourable mentions worth keeping tabs on too are defensive midfield pairing Liziero and Luan Santos, while further forward Jonas Toro will hope to kick on and young starlet Rodrigo Nestor could be a breakthrough talent.
Marcos Paulo // 19 // Fluminense
Raw but exciting, the 19-year-old forward broke into the Fluminense first team last year and began 2020 in impressive form. Two goals in three Copa do Brasil games and another three in eleven in the Campeonato Carioca has seen the Brazilian-born Portuguese youth international start to gain more attention for the Rio-based side.
Supporting either veteran goalgetter Fred or fellow prospect Evanilson from the flank, Marcos Paulo is a pacey and confident attacker with quick feet and an opportunistic eye for goal. While he is far from the finished article and still not a guaranteed starter – fighting it out with interesting Peruvian prospect Fernando Pacheco on the left – this season could be a great opportunity to justify the hype around him.
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