He’s coming, and the world isn’t ready.
Already a legend in his native land, the world has seen very little of the man, but they owe themselves to take a hit, and I bet they’ll be hooked.
The lore of this young man began in the Gremio system in Brazil, joining the club at age four as a part of the clubs' self-invented “Infant Squad." Over the years, he made local headlines, winning matches single handily when players were just barely learning how to tie their boots.
With the Children's squad, he was gaining attraction from some of the best clubs in Europe. A knack for the big match and an attacking ability see by many to equal that at his age of former Gremio legend Renato Gaúcho.
Clubs from Arsenal to Zenith St.Petersburg were sending scouts to meet the youngster face-to-face, but only one club had the seriousness to keep tabs on the lad, even when they weren’t first to pick him up.
Skipping the youth level at the club, he made his trade in Junior (or Under-20 level) for nearly five years. Gremios staff was world-renown for their development of top quality youngsters, and the potential of the one they called “snake” seemed unlimited.
Fans and pundits alike praised the work of the coaching staff, but the public were becoming restless in holding him back.
So came 2005, when the legend was born.
A team starving for success after a relegation hindered season, the club had no choice but to throw out all their options and hope for the best. The beauty of the South American game is, most times stuff that makes players legends aren’t on camera or in pictures, but by word.
Set the scene: four red cards, two penalties, seven men on the pitch, and you win 1-0.
How does this work?
They say a man named Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira took over that day. A performance only surpassed by those matches on TV, some would say it is the greatest single performance in the history of the game. Some say it’s a myth, and the records of the game are missing justify the proof.
Some supporters say simply, he saved the club.
The new found fame didn't hit him, but Gremio took advantage of the exposure of their starlet, and shopped him to the top sides in Europe.
After this climatic moment of his career, Anderson was ready to move, quickly to Portuguese powerhouse Porto FC on a unique exchange basis. Gremio moved him for free, but would be owed nearly 50 percent of Anderson’s next transfer. (A good piece of business, as the club benefited from the financial boost of re-gaining their top flight status, and picked up between 7-10 million pounds once Anderson moved to his next club.)
The move was seemingly more of a developmental process for the youngster, who many predicted would leave after his one season with the club for greener pastures. But he stayed one longer, and the season was a massive success, seeing Anderson’s role as an attacking midfielder change into a more versatile player, even finding some matches playing at left back because of his amazing positioning and strong left foot. (It was well documented across the Portuguese media that Anderson may have one of the best left foots to ever play in the country.)
However, despite making his name in the Champions League in that following season, his advancement took a knock after breaking his leg. During the recovery, Porto reportedly talked to some of the biggest clubs in Europe about his availability, and a rumoured price range of 10 million pounds was set.
But with the talent already possessed and the skill still to be unlocked, you knew this was just the beginning of the bidding.
The bidding war that many in the football world predicted was quickly put to rest. A club seemingly in a financial crisis, Manchester United swept the footballing world off its feet by signing Anderson for a shocking, along with a young trio of Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, Nani from Sporting Club, and Carlos Tevez from, well nobody knows. But the financial significance of the deals fails to match the importance of the future at Old Trafford being bright in the near and far horizon.
The price of 15-20 million pounds shocked the football world, alongside the massive other signings, United seemed to have a plan for all four players in their specific roles.
Fergie got his man in Hargreaves, and the plan was due to finally be the man to fill legend Roy Keane's boots. Injuries and a position battle with Michael Carrick have slowed that process however.
Nani started bright, but his status in the club is as a youth, making a few appearances even for the reserves to keep match fitness. Nani was tipped to be Ryan Giggs’ replacement as soon as this year, but has seen a stretch of form from Giggs amongst the best in the league, and has seen Nani relegated to back-up.
Tevez has stepped into the pivotal support for Wayne Rooney, and his impact can be said has been just as big as Anderson's.
Anderson’s story, however, is one for the headlines.
The comparisons to Cesc Fabregas’ impact at Arsenal, Anderson has stepped into both the role of holding, and attack midfielder, as well as a trailing striker, and has elevated his game with every match, every touch, every step.
Evident in the immediate impact, the one player who everyone thought might take longest to develop into a Premier League quality player has grown and matured the quickest, and has played exceptionally in any of the for mentioned roles.
The world’s official introduction came in United’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield, in which Anderson alone took veteran and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard out of the match with quick movement, beautiful marking, thrilling tackles, and a verbal jar at Gerrard and other Liverpool players, letting them know he is here to stay.
You can only expect this legend will have many more moments like that.
So make sure you get the full experience these next few months, years, and decades. We're seeing a legend already made, and very much in the making.
Note: As of publication, Anderson has made 20 appearances in all competitions in 2007-08, received a call-up from the Brazilian national team, and according to popular United fan forum Red Cafe, he is third in voting for player of the year. Not too bad for a 19-year-old who was a few seasons away.