This article ranks the finest young Brazilian talents in the game of world football today.
The nation is a fine producer of excellent players, with a long history and a broad talent base to select from. Naturally, with a home World Cup on the horizon, a wide range of players are being considered for a spot with the Selecao.
Not all of these youngsters will be in contention next summer, but those who aren’t will watch on hoping that their day will one day arrive. I have taken 21 as the cut-off point, meaning that stars such as Juan Jesus, Douglas Costa and Ganso have not been considered.
For Brazil, considering this list (presented in ascending order), the future looks bright.
Victor Andrade is a left winger-cum-striker who offers rapid work down the flanks or incisive movement through the middle. A product of the Santos academy, his appearances to date have been brief, but they have been voluble, and the youngster has done enough to suggest that he is a very exciting talent.
He may be on the small side, but the reported attention from Barcelona and Manchester City, no less, gives you a clue as to the scale of the promise.
"The New Neymar," one to watch, avidly.
With only one full season of club football under his belt, Ademilson has an awfully long way to go to genuinely be considered alongside some of the names on this list. The early signs are promising, however, and he an easily be considered as “one to watch” over the coming 12 months.
He excelled at the U-17 World Cup in Mexico in 2011 and was one of Brazil’s key performers with five goals in seven outings as the team made it all the way to the semi-finals.
The forward will certainly need to kick on this term, and with competition heavy at Sao Paulo, this is not a given. If he can maintain his momentum of last term and begin to find the net more regularly, he may be destined for a bright future.
Granada’s €2.3 million capture of Douglas Santos earlier in the summer can be considered as something of a coup.
The left-back, who has been selected by Brazil’s U-20 team, is regarded as one of the nation’s most promising youngsters. In April, he was called up for the senior team’s friendly with Bolivia, despite being only 19. It could well be a sign that the national selectors see the former Nautico man as the successor to Everaldo, Roberto Carlos, Nilton Santos et al.
Issues with third-party ownership may have threatened to derail his move, but now that he has been confirmed as a Granada player, he can look forward to building a career for himself in Spain.
Another youngster who enjoyed a first term in the Brasileirão last year was Adryan. The Flamengo star is an attacking midfielder of immense promise—certainly if his occasional outings for the Rio de Janeiro giants are anything to go by.
The Rubro-Negro posses a young attacking midfielder of great pedigree—in the same mould as fellow prodigies Bernard and Oscar, albeit at a slightly more formative stage of his development.
The teenager was one ray of light in what was a disappointing campaign for Flamengo. His performances were predominantly reduced to substitute outings—16 of his 23 appearances came from the bench.
Like others on this list, he excelled at the U-17 World Cup in Mexico—bagging five goals in the side’s seven fixtures.
Not all of that squad will achieve stardom, but Adryan might well be one to realise his potential. A new contract at Flamengo will give him the stability to progress.
While exciting young players regularly emerge in attacking berths, where the mistakes that come with inexperience are less likely to be punished, the centre of defence remains, for the most part, an older man’s game.
Thus, Doria’s ascent to the heart of the Botafogo backline is a truly exceptional achievement.
Last season was his breakthrough year, as he emerged as a regular in the team and demonstrated such maturity and composure. He was also promoted from captaining the Brazil U-20 team to taking a berth in the full Selecao squad, making his debut earlier in the year.
Having displayed such abilities for Botafogo, and considering the club’s financial difficulties, a move abroad has been mooted. Chelsea, Milan and Spurs are just three clubs to express an interest and any of the trio would greatly benefit from the addition of the imposing defender.
After a protracted transfer wrangle, the midfielder will remain at Flamengo—where he has penned a new three-year deal.
Bebeto’s son was initially made famous by his father’s goal celebration—the Brazil striker spawned a thousand imitations with his cradle-rocking gestures during the 1994 World Cup.
The youngster will now continue his development in the Brazilian league, but if all goes to plan, a move to Europe—for a vastly increased fee—shouldn’t be too far off.
Had I written this list a season or two ago, Ganso would have been a certainty to finish near the top. Now 23, the creative midfielder is no longer eligible—even if he were, injuries and loss of form have greatly stymied his progress.
His departure from Santos, however, did have one wonderful consequence—the unleashing of Felipe Anderson.
The attacking midfielder had previously been eclipsed by his compatriot, but with Ganso moving to Sao Paulo, a spot was freed for him to prosper.
He took his opportunity with both hands (or feet), impressing in the absence of Ganso and Elano to earn the adoration of Santos fans. Long-term admirers Lazio eventually completed the acquisition of the Brazil youth international in June, agreeing to an €8 million deal with Santos.
The club’s No. 10 shirt may currently be occupied by Ederson, but don’t doubt that Felipe Anderson will have his sights set on a long future in this position.
Young full-back Wallace faces a big season.
Despite impressing during the Blues’ preseason tour of Asia, the 19-year-old is in need both of greater experience and a work permit.
Both issues could be settled over the next 12 months as the player is heading to Internazionale on loan.
Already a Brazil youth international, the right-back will be hoping that this is his breakthrough season in Europe. His compatriot, Jonathan, will be one of several men standing in his way, but Mourinho, among others, is confident that Wallace has the ability to make a genuine impact.
Speaking to ESPN, Mourinho identified some of the Brazilian’s key qualities:
"We want him to adapt. He's very mature for his age, comfortable with the ball. He has the quality of a Brazilian full-back, likes to attack and create.”
The Gremio youth academy has a wonderful reputation for producing excellent talent. Ronaldinho, Anderson, Douglas Costa and Lucas all emerged from the Porto Alegre club.
The latest star graduate is Leandro, who, as a teenager, had already made his debut for the national side. That he bagged a goal in that fixture, against Bolivia, seems to be another indicator of his class.
He is currently on loan at Palmeiras, where he is thriving, but could well be set to make the move to Europe in the near future.
A jewel in Chelsea’s youth academy, Piazon was part of a recent initiative to recruit the finest young players in World Football. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Kenneth Omeruo have begun to make their own headlines in recent years, as they grow in stature, and the young Brazilian may not be too far behind.
The attacking midfielder has struggled to forge a spot for himself amidst the riches of Chelsea’s offensive options. A loan move to Malaga gave him a taste of regular competition—he managed 11 outings for Los Boquerones during the final months of Manuel Pellegrini’s successful time at the club.
While the youngster will surely hope that his opportunity at Chelsea arrives sooner rather than later, he has gone on record saying that he will not wait forever at Stamford Bridge.
In brief glimpses, he has given evidence of his immense class—not least in last season’s 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa. Chelsea’s loss may well be someone else’s gain.
As identified by Jeff Livinstone and the team at In Bed With Maradona, Dudu is a little different from typical Brazilian players, and thus, from the other names on this list.
While the majority of characters named here offer deliriously advanced technical or physical abilities, Dudu has the tactical maturity and discipline of a much older player.
He also possesses a prodigious engine and an admirable work rate, and despite his diminutive stature, he looks to have the determination and the desire to reach the very top of his game.
Dynamo Kyiv are nurturing him well, and it looks like they have a real gem on their hands.
The former Fluminense man was acquired for €9 million and has agreed a five-year deal at the Donbass Arena. Both player and club will be hoping that the unfortunately named Nem can develop on the same trajectory as his predecessor.
He will definitely need time to adapt to European football, a fact the player acknowledged when he was unveiled. The Brazilian contingent already at the club should be of great support, while Nem can count Deco as a close friend. The Porto legend was his inspiration and mentor at Fluminense and should be on hand for any advice.
The factors and environment are all in place for Wellington Nem to emerge as a terrific offensive talent—the winger will be looking to add to his three Brazil caps to date.
A summer acquisition for Real Madrid, Casemiro doesn’t face many of the challenges typically facing new arrivals at the Bernabeu. He has already begun to adapt to life on such a grand stage, having enjoyed a successful loan stint at the club last term.
At the South American U-20 Championships in 2011, Casemiro weighed in with some crucial goals and also demonstrated himself to be an effective leader. The Sao Jose dos Campos native often begins from a deep position, but has quick feet and is adept at dribbling through the heart of the pitch.
These are qualities that Ancelotti and the Real hierarchy will be hoping he can bring to the table in the elevated arena of La Liga.
If Brazil weren’t so stacked in central midfield, Fernando would be considered the future of the nation. As it is, he faces a decade of competing for supremacy alongside Sandro, Hernanes, Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho and several others. The Selecao certainly have some terrific options.
Fernando is not as dynamic as some of the aforementioned stars, but he is a dependable, highly reliable option, capable of entering a contest late to close it down or to operate throughout, marshalling the defence and holding a team’s shape.
He will surely be a major asset to Shakhtar Donetsk, having signed for the Miners this summer.
With Brazil’s full-backs keen to power on forward and create width for the side, the player who operates in the holding role will need to have supreme discipline and positional awareness. It may be that Fernando is this man.
Another of the latest Brazilian additions to Shakhtar Dontesk’s growing stable of South American talent is wonderkid Bernard.
The 20-year-old is an explosive left-sided midfielder who naturally slots in as a winger, but who can also operate more centrally.
Throughout his apprenticeship at Atletico Mineiro, he has regularly been considered among his country’s greatest hopes. Felipao’s gentle attempts to integrate him into the Brazilian senior team show how highly rated Bernard is among the nation’s highest footballing echelons.
Brazil have a wonderful tradition of allowing prodigious youngsters to explode onto international football’s grandest stage. Bernard may be the latest in a long line to have the World Cup on home soil next summer.
The future, where Marquinhos is concerned, is very bright indeed.
The defender was one of the revelations of the season last term, following his switch to Europe. Having signed for Roma from Corinthians in the summer of 2012, he wasted no time in imposing himself on the Italian giants’ first XI.
He made an immediate impact, adding agility and composure to the Giallorossi’s defence as they advanced up the Serie A classement.
Marquinhos is not the most imposing of characters, but his anticipation and reading of the opposition movement has already set him apart as a defender of genuine class.
Barcelona had allegedly earmarked Marquinhos as the long-term successor to club legend Carles Puyol, but they were beaten to his signature by Paris Saint-Germain.
The French club agreed to a five-year deal with the player and awarded him the No. 5 shirt following his £27 million move from Roma. He is set to be a crucial cornerstone of their future, and, if he can maintain his form, he will be one of the world’s finest centre-backs.
Many had feared that Coutinho’s promise had been lost for good following his injury woes and stuttering start to life at Internazionale.
Fortunately, he has been rejuvenated since his move to the Premier League and to Liverpool. The Merseyside club’s transfer record in recent seasons has been underwhelming, with a huge swathe of players coming into the team only to depart a little while later having failed to make an impact.
Coutinho certainly hasn’t fallen into this category, and while opposition will be more wary of his abilities this term, the Brazilian has the capacity to spark—be it alongside Luis Suarez or in replacement of the Uruguayan.
Amidst all of the ridiculously extravagant spending at Paris Saint-Germain over the last 18 months, the acquisition of Lucas Moura stands out for both its audacity and its ambition.
Having learned his trade at Brazilian giants Sao Paulo, where he was gently bled into the team and unveiled gradually to the watching world, Lucas was always destined for great things.
Despite the attentions of Manchester United, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, none of the traditional giants could compete with PSG, that offered over €40 million to snare one of the world’s finest young talents.
It is difficult to judge players—particularly ones at such a nascent stage of their development—against such elevated fees, but it is hard to argue that Lucas is not something pretty special.
Strong, yet agile and perfectly balanced, he is capable of performing the unpredictable and the mundane with equal aplomb.
Consistency needs to improve, but Lucas could be set to become the face of Paris Saint-Germain—as they emerge as a genuine European heavyweight.
One of the most marked features of the opening weekend was the menace of Chelsea’s attacking midfielders. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata are set to be key threats for Jose Mourinho in the season ahead, while Oscar could be set to make as big an impact as any.
The stylish midfield operator may eventually be set to function in a deeper role, but currently he's likely to function just behind a central striker for both club and country.
With a powerful shot, excellent composure and not inconsiderable technical nous for one so young, expect Oscar to be a key performer at next summer’s World Cup.
In so many ways, Neymar stands head and shoulders above the other players in this list.
He is already the star attraction in a Brazil team that will fancy itself to stand victorious at the World Cup next summer. He has secured a move to Europe—signing for the world’s finest team to play alongside the world’s finest player—for a mouth-watering amount of money. He is already the pin-up boy of a nation and a hero primed to carry a Goliath’s hopes and dreams.
Neymar is so prevalent in world football today, that some of Bleacher’s readers have even expressed disdain at his ubiquitous presence on this and other sites.
But, the reality remains, he is something special and is only set to get better.