Ranking Brazil's Potential Next Neymars

Christopher AtkinsContributor IMay 27, 2013

Ranking Brazil's Potential Next Neymars

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    It has now been confirmed that Neymar will be heading for Barcelona later this summer, with this Sunday's 0-0 draw with Flamengo set to be his last appearance in a Santos shirt for some time.

    Following the departures of Lucas Moura and Oscar, the Brazilian league has now lost its third major young talent in just a 12-month period. However, as ever, there is more talent to come.

    While there is only one Neymar, there are already players being tipped to reach the top who play in a similar position to the Santos magician. As ever, though, not all of them will live up to the hype.

    So, then, let's take a look at six of those players who have been touted as the potential "next Neymar."

No. 6: Givanildo (Santos)

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    A Santos teammate of the departing Neymar, 20-year-old forward Giva Souza has made his first strides at first-team level this season after impressing at Under-18 level in the Copa Sao Paulo youth tournament.

    More of a natural centre-forward than his elder colleague, Giva can also play as a wide attacker and has the pace to cause significant damage from those areas.

    A fine natural finisher and a good runner with the ball at his feet, he still has much to prove at senior level. However, with three goals in his first 10 games, he appears to have adapted well thus far.

    Giva was recruited by Santos last year after impressing in the academy of Salvador-based side Vitoria. With the departure of Neymar and centre-forward Andre, he should be given plentiful opportunity to prove himself this campaign.

No. 5: Rafinha (Flamengo)

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    Flamengo forward Rafinha made his name on a national stage at the beginning of 2013 with a couple of senior goals shortly after making his debut.

    Like Giva, he is also 20 years old, and offers a similar dilemma in terms of working out just how good he can be. Since that bright start, he has tailed off somewhat but remains a trusted member of manager Jorginho's starting lineup.

    A second striker or inside forward, Rafinha uses his pace and finishing ability to terrorize defences. He has also shown himself to be a fine creator of opportunities for colleagues.

    He has already been linked with a move to French moneybags Paris Saint-Germain in the Brazilian media (Portuguese), but only recently put pen to paper on a new long-term contract with his current employers.

No. 4: Leandro (Palmeiras)

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    Young striker Leandro has certainly enjoyed somewhat of a roller-coaster ride since making his first-team debut at Gremio a little over two years ago.

    A bright start in 2011, when he was frequently compared to Neymar, was soon followed by a lengthy loss of form as he struggled to adapt to life in the Brasileirão.

    The second half of Grêmio's 2012 campaign, though, brought improved performances from the young forward, and that has been improved upon early in 2013 during a loan spell at Palmeiras.

    So good has Leandro's start to life at Palmeiras been that he was handed a first Brazil appearance in a friendly encounter with Bolivia. Despite only appearing as a late substitute, he would still manage to open his international goalscoring account.

    Leandro will never reach Neymar's extreme heights, but has shown he could be a very useful top-flight and, possibly, international player.

No. 3: Fred (Internacional)

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    Internacional forward Fred enjoyed a brilliant start to life in the Brasileirao in 2012, scoring six goals to propel himself into consideration for home-based international squads.

    A quick and vibrant runner with the ball, Fred was also one of only a few Brazil players to emerge from the South American Under-20 Championship with any credit. Having started the competition as a substitute, he was quickly propelled into the starting lineup.

    While Neymar, Lucas Moura and others have remained in Brazil, 20-year-old Fred's development would appear to have gone somewhat under the radar for many outside of the country.

    Now that so many have departed or look set to depart this summer, it is time for the Inter forward to show that he is ready to step into the limelight.

    Under the management of Dunga, who will encourage a fast, counter-attacking style, Fred will have all the conditions needed to make an—admittedly very ambitious—late charge for a place at the 2014 World Cup.

No. 2: Wellington Nem (Fluminense)

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    Diminutive Fluminense forward Wellington Nem shot to wider public consciousness in 2011 when on loan at fellow Serie A side Figueirense. He has since, though, gone on to play an important role for his parent club in winning the league title last season.

    Predominantly used as a second striker behind experienced centre-forward Fred, his speed and trickery have been an important dimension to the Fluminense attack.

    Links to European clubs have cropped up on a semi-frequent basis, with Napoli recently becoming the latest side to be touted as a suitor. (Sambafoot) For now, though, there has been no significant suggestion that he will move on this summer.

    The Tricolor star is another who will have dreams of a late run into the Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup, but will require another step up in performance over the next 12 months to do so.

    Thus far, though, he has consistently risen to every challenge offered in his career.

No. 1: Bernard (Atletico Mineiro)

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    With Neymar now on his way out of Brazil, the mantle of being the Brazilian league's most talented young attack now falls upon Atletico Mineiro youngster Bernard.

    Yet another 20-year-old, Bernard sprang to life in 2012 to turn in a season of astonishingly consistent performances for his high-flying side. Alongside the experienced Ronaldinho and striker Jo, he helped form what was the Brasileirao's most exciting forward line.

    It is a run of outstanding form that has continued in 2013, with the 5'5" youngster once more a central figure as Atletico look to challenge for the Copa Libertadores title. His form has not gone unnoticed.

    Only this week, reports in German newspaper Bild, according to Lancenet.com, have linked the youngster with a €12 million move to Borussia Dortmund. While that price would appear on the low side for what Atletico would expect, he would undoubtedly be a success at the German side.

    Bernard has been performing as well as anybody in Brazil over the past 12 months and has earned a place in the Brazil squad for the Confederations Cup. Now, it simply remains to be seen just how high a level he can reach.