South American countries have a long, rich history of unearthing talented youngsters with an array of skills who go on to be the stars of tomorrow and this production line doesn’t look like it’s coming to an end anytime soon.
People put forward many suggestions as to why countries like Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile seemingly have a never-ending supply of talented footballers. Whether it’s down to the environment these players grow up in, it’s a question of survival for a lot of these players so they push themselves to be the very best they can, or simply because the training in South America is tailored to the rigours of European football. Whatever the reason it’s clear, for the foreseeable future at least, talented South American youngsters will have a home in Europe.
It’s even more topical at the minute after Manchester City spent a combined £33 million to bring the 19-year-old Palmeiras forward Gabriel Jesus and 20-year-old Atlético Nacional attacker Marlos Moreno to the Premier League.
They’re just the latest in a long line of expensive South American teenagers moving to Europe. At the age of just 21 Robinho moved from Santos to Real Madrid in 2005 for a reported £20 million. Two years after that the Spanish giants were once again back in the South American market this time paying £18 million to pry 22-year-old defensive midfielder Fernando Gago away from Boca Juniors. Real Betis paid Sao Paolo £21 million in 1998 for the services of then 21-year-old Denilson. Roma parted with €12 million to bring River Plate’s Erik Lamela to Serie A in 2011.
Interestingly enough, as things stand, six of the top ten most expensive players in history are from South American countries and it’s a trend that doesn’t look like it will come to an end anytime soon with a certain Paolo Dybala attracting the interest of Europe’s elite.
So let’s take a look at the South American talent of tomorrow.
Current team: Velez Sarsfield
Arsenal reportedly bid €6 million for the forward before he’d even made his debut for Velez Sarsfield. At just 17-years-old he’s already catching the eye. The fact he’s a bit of an all-rounder means he’s versatile enough to fit into most systems used these days. He’s strong both in the air and when in possession of the ball which enables him to hold the ball up and link the play with the supporting midfielders. Despite his tender age he shows intelligent movement and is able to finish with either foot.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Current team: Corinthians
Fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester United were both linked with a move for Oya in 2015. Likened to Kaka, it’s obvious to those who have seen him play why he’s been tipped with a move to Europe. His ability to glide with the ball and evade the opposition combined with his vision when in possession makes him ideal for most possession-based sides. He also knows how to take a free kick.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Current team: Santos
Bernardo idolises Santos great Robinho and has drawn comparisons to the player himself. He has almost mesmerising feet and when he isolates a full-back it’s almost guaranteed he’s going to get past him. He has the Brazilian flair, he’s quick over the ground and is a goal threat no matter where he starts. Reports from Spain say Valencia are already showing an interest.
Current team: Atletico Madrid
In January 2015 Schiappacasse joined La Liga giants Atletico Madrid for €1.5m from Argentinian side River Plate. The last time Atleti signed a teenage South American striker it turned out to be Sergio Aguero and with their track record with strikers it’s all but certain Schiappacasse will be a €30m attacker at some stage in his career. He likes to isolate players and then blitz past them on either side. He’s skilful, has great close control which aids his dribbling ability, he’s aggressive in possession and can use both feet.
Current team: Santos
The 19-year-old impressed at the Olympics as Brazil went on to win gold and has already been linked with a move to Chelsea. A hybrid box-to-box/holding midfielder his strengths lie in his positioning and his ability on the ball when in deeper positions. He has the ability to not only spot a pass but to execute it and coupled with his defensive awareness could make him an ideal defensive midfielder for a Premier League side in the near future.
Current team: Botafogo
Botafogo acted swiftly when realising the talent they had on their hands in Henrique and put a €40m release clause in his contract. He has the traditional flair and quick feet we’ve come to expect from Brazilians but he combines that with power. He’s able to finish with either foot and adapted to life in the first-team with relative haste, scoring 4 goals in just 799 minutes of first-team action. Arsenal have already shown an interest in the striker but with his release clause and Arsenal’s reluctance to spend big it means a deal is unlikely to happen.
Position: Attacking Midfielder.
Current team: Gremio
Premier League Champions Leicester City and Manchester United are just two of the clubs to show an interest in the left-footed attacking midfielder over the past 12 months. He’s been compared to Brazilian greats Ronaldinho and Rivaldo dues to his ability to perform the unexpected as well as Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa due to his explosive acceleration. While there is still a lot to learn the raw talent is there it just needs to be harnessed.
Current team: Liverpool
“I saw him in training and I thought ‘oh my God, what can we do to keep this boy here and bring him into the line-up?”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had those words to say about Allan when the youngster returned from his loan in Finland. The Reds signed the talented midfielder from Internacional for just £500,000 and it already looks like money well spent. He’s been likened to Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho, especially when he was deployed in midfield during the 2013/14 season. He’s a set-piece expert and calm under pressure, his left foot is able to produce moments of magic.