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.
– 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.)
Club: Atletico Mineiro
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.