I have finally finished the most complex piece of work in this blog’s history: a list of the top 10 youngsters playing in Brazil. In order to compile the list, I have followed countless rumours and leads, gone through player dossiers, match reports, television footage, trawled the state championships, lower leagues and youth divisions up and down the country, interviewing coaches, fans and scouts alike. All in the hope of finding the best up-and-coming talent in Brazil in order to report to you, this blog’s readers.
Of course, I am joking about my the methods, which, unless somebody offers to pay me, are pretty much restricted to sitting on my sofa in São Paulo and switching between my five dedicated sports channels. But, despite the shortcut, I say: Forget World Soccer. Forget Four Four Two, BBC, Tim Vickery, etc. Brazilfooty.com is the place where you get the inside scoops and these are the top ten youngsters playing in Brazil at the moment.
10 – Casemiro, defensive midfield, 19 years, São Paulo
Casemiro broke in into the São Paulo team early last year and hasn’t looked back. He really made a name for himself in the South American u20 Championships where he scored several important goals and was one of the team’s leaders. I’ve seen him play for São Paulo a couple of times since that and he has been a little disappointing. Good dribbler and quick feet for a defensive midfielder but a little overweight and slow, perhaps. One too many pies? The jury is out although Tottenham are said to be interested.
9 – Dedé, centre back, 22 years, Vasco
We get very few Vasco games on TV here in São Paulo and whenever they are on, there always seems to be something better on at the same time. So, I must admit that I’ve never seen Dedé play for 90 minutes. BUT, he is a clearly a beast of a defender given his height and athleticism. He was voted as the player of the year by Vasco fans last year. Now, to put that into context, a defender being voted player of the year in Brazil means two things: 1/ okay, it means the team is lousy (which was the case for Vasco last year but not this); but 2/ it means he must be one hell of a defender. 22 is still relatively young for a defender so he’s included here as the only defender in the top ten youngsters.
8 – Wallyson, forward, 22 years, Cruzeiro
The same age as Dedé but by Brazilian standards, a late starter for a forward. However, he has made such a big impact since establishing himself in Cruzeiro’s team this year that he deserves his place in the top 10 youngsters. Cruzeiro are no slouches and they have some top attacking talent in their ranks so just breaking into the team is an achievement for any young player. More than that, he has got a good touch and movement and keeps firing in the goals for Cruzeiro in important games. Interesting name too.
7 – Oscar, attacking midfield, 19 years, Internacional
Oscar is a classy midfielder with an eye for goal and strong shot. Still only 19, he’s a regular starter for Internacional where he forms a potent attacking midfield duo with D’Alessandro (ex-Portsmouth, Wolfsburg). That is no mean feat considering that Internacional are the current Libertadores reigning Champions. Oscar also was part of the Brazil u20 side that won the South American Championships in Peru earlier this year. Possibly a little lightweight and could do with putting on some pounds ahead of any transfer to Europe.
6 – Leandro, attacking midfield/forward, 18 years, Grêmio
Leandro has burst onto the scene at Grêmio this season and having just turned 18 (on 12 May) is clearly a big talent. Grêmio coach Renato Gaúcho has been protecting him but some poor results have forced his hand and he has made appearances in the Copa Libertadores and State Championship finals against Internacional where he scored in their recent 3-2 win. Could he be another gem unearthed by Grêmio, following in the footsteps of Ronaldinho (Flamengo), Anderson (Manchester United), Lucas (Liverpool) and Douglas Costa (Shakhtar)? Looks like it…
5 – Danilo, midfielder/right back, 19 years, Santos
When he broke into Santos’ first team last year, I must admit I was not a fan. I wasn’t overly impressed with his displays at right back for Brazil’s u20s earlier this year either. However, it is obvious that Danilo is a very althetic player. His technique is also sound and his main problem – concentration – seems to be improving. Since Muricy has arrived at Santos, Danilo has excelled in a midfield position and his been given licence to get forward. The Brazilian Jack Rodwell. He scored a brilliant goal against Cerro Porteño in the Libertadores which played a huge part in Santos qualifying for the second round of the competition. Gets better with every game.
4 – Leandro Damião, forward, 21 years, Internacional
Another relatively late starter by top Brazilian young forwards’ standards but he’s scored 18 goals in 17 games for Internacional so far this season. His rise has been meteoric: he was unheard of jut a year ago but since then has scored in the Copa Libertadores final and made his full Brazil debut in the recent friendly match against Scotland. He’s built like a European style target man but has got some great skills and touches to remind everybody he is Brazilian. Similar sort of style as Ibrahimovic at AC Milan. I have seen him miss two open goals this season though, just to bring you readers down to earth.
3 – Lucas, attacking midfield/wing, 18 years, São Paulo
Theo Walcott look-alike and play-alike. Except better end product. That is my impression so far. He scored some amazing goals for Brazil u20’s earlier this year and alongside Neymar was the star of the tournament. He has carried on that form for São Paulo and his presence was sorely missed in their semi-final defeat against Santos recently. He’s quick, scores goals, can dribble and has a good head on his shoulders. Nothing stopping him from making it to the very top. Theo Walcott, step aside.
2 – Ganso, attacking midfield, 21 years, Santos
It was a tough call to put Ganso in second behind Neymar, but considering the evidence (form, goals and age), it makes sense. Ganso is two years older and has been troubled by injuries over the last eight months. But, let me not take anything away from Ganso who is a terrific player. If Neymar is Ronaldo, then Ganso is Zidane. This guy has eyes on the back of his head, a thought ahead of everybody else on the pitch, a left peg to match the best and calmness and composure in almost any situation. He has dragged Santos through some hard times, even when had just come back from injury and the likes of Neymar and Elano suspended. Unfortunately, his head seems to have been turned and he is looking to leave Santos which has overshadowed some of his recent performances. Also, he recently came back from a long term injury and is showing some signs of fatigue, culminating in a recent injury that will keep him out for 30-45 days. If he carries on developing though, there is nothing stopping him from becoming the new Zidane and filling the void left by Rivaldo in the seleção. AC Milan and Inter Milan are both desperate for his signature.
1 – Neymar, wing/forward, 19 years, Santos
The best player in Brazil. So fast, so skillfull. Never afraid to take the ball, take on a defender. He can terrify defenders with his dribbles and passes. He also scores a heck of a lot of goals considering that he normally plays on the wing. I don’t like his theatrics and he often goes to ground too easily. Saying that players are singling him out for heavy man marking and he seems to be getting up and dealing with that better than before. He is so light and quick that when he loses his balance, it’s inevitable that he goes to ground. He’ll definitely need to bulk up if he wants to succeed in Europe though because won’t there he won’t get the same protection from referees that he enjoys in Brazil. He’s got the talent to go right to the top and importantly, he is enjoying every minute of his career and his football. He never wants or needs a rest. He never gets injured. He plays every match and seems to score in just about every match too.
So, there you have it. That’s it. Neymar. Now you can show off to all your friends by telling them you know who the next biggest thing in Brazilian football is. And if you are a real football nerd like me, here are a few more honourable mentions to ponder over (in no particular order):
Alex Sandro, Alan Patrik and Rafael (Santos), Rafael Galhardo, Welinton, Diego Maurício and Negueba (Flamengo), Fernando and Junior Viçosa (Grêmio), Gabriel (Cruzeiro), Willian José, Henrique and Luiz Eduardo (São Paulo), Gabriel Silva and Tinga (Palmeiras), Dodô (Corinthians), Gilberto (Santa Cruz), Renan (Avaí), Bernard (Vasco)
Have I forgotten anybody?