Brazil's 20 Best Home-Based Talents Bound for Europe
Brazil, as a footballing nation, is renowned for producing talent in both quality and quantity. Its domestic football has seen increasing purchasing power over the past couple of years, but its brightest lights continue to flood to Europe.
Despite the loss of Lucas Moura, Oscar, Neymar and Bernard in quick succession, the talent pool is far from running dry. Indeed, there are so many players of potential that this list is far from comprehensive (as fans of overlooked sides Internacional, Gremio, Atletico Mineiro and Corinthians, in particular, will attest).
The following, though, are 20 players whose futures lie outside Brazil and who will be keen to head for Europe at the first opportunity.
There are many more, but here are some of the very best Brazilian football has to offer.
It's somewhat of a surprise that Cruzeiro defender Dede is not in Europe already. However, his decision to switch from Vasco da Gama for the Belo Horizonte club last year has already paid off with the reward of a Brazilian league title. His place at this summer's World Cup also looks to be confirmed.
Tall, deceptively quick and powerful, Dede is undoubtedly the most naturally gifted centre-back in Brazil at present. Despite developing late and suffering serious injuries, he has made his way to the top.
The plan in moving to Cruzeiro last year was for the 25-year-old to head to Europe post-World Cup. He's already won a league title, so there now seems to be little keeping him at home beyond that.
The latest jewel in Santos' crown, 17-year-old striker Gabriel Barbosa is seen as one of the next generation of Brazilian superstars set to take the game by storm.
Eased into the Santos side last season, he took a step forward in the early stages of 2014 to become the club's top scorer in the Paulista state championships. Despite his age, he is an important player for the Peixe.
Gabriel, or "Gabigol," is reportedly one of three players upon whom Barcelona made a down payment during the negotiations for Neymar, per Football Espana. First-option agreements, though, do not mean he cannot head elsewhere, and once he turns 18 later this year, the race will be on for his capture.
His three years in senior football have been a roller-coaster affair, but there can be no denying the talent of the Gremio product once described as the "Neymar of the South."
His promising start at the Rio Grande do Sul side quickly fizzled out, but he was handed a lifeline last year with a loan spell at Palmeiras. Nineteen goals and an international appearance later, the 20-year-old is once more heading in the right direction.
With quick feet, good balance and an eye for goal, Leandro is a somewhat typical Brazilian No. 11. He signed a permanent deal with Palmeiras and will already be firmly on the radar of Europe's second-tier sides.
One of the revelations of 2012, when he scored 16 goals in the second tier, speedy forward Marcelo continued his rise with Atletico Paranaense last year, bagging seven goals and six assists as the side secured a place in the Copa Libertadores.
Offers came from abroad over the new year, but Marcelo and the majority of the Atletico squad stuck it out to compete with the club in the Libertadores. Now, though, he will be a major target for a move this summer.
The 22-year-old is a fine all-round forward capable of playing either wide or through the centre. Technically, he is strong and capable of excellent bits of improvisation, but his strength and speed set him apart from the crowd.
Just 19, Samir's rise to becoming an important part of the Flamengo defence has been meteoric, as he was hardly on the radar until midway through last season.
The youngster has done little wrong since his breakthrough and is now seen as an integral part of their first-team plans, even playing regularly in the club's recent Copa Libertadores campaign.
Samir, incredibly strong and reasonably quick across the ground, was seen as a leader at youth level and has shown great confidence since his arrival at senior level. Such has been his standard that he is sometimes given the moniker of "the new Thiago Silva."
Linked with a move to the likes of Manchester United according to ESPN FC, Everton Ribeiro was the outstanding player of the 2013 Brasileirao and a major factor in his Cruzeiro side sealing title success.
While he has started the 2014 campaign slowly in comparison, the attacking midfielder was the creative heartbeat of the champions last year, providing 11 assists and seven goals en route to glory.
A diminutive presence who spent time in wide positions at previous club Coritiba, Everton Ribeiro is an excellent dribbler who causes real problems with the speed and directness of his runs. With an eye for a pass and a mean free-kick, he would certainly be a major asset for any side.
Contrary to stereotypical views of the Brazilian game, if there is one position in which the country is not lacking talent at the moment, it is centre-back. Santos' tall, cultured 21-year-old Gustavo Henrique is among the very best.
Sadly, the youngster is currently sidelined due to injury, but he took the step up from U20 to first-team level last season with ease, becoming a key player for the Paulista side.
For a long time at youth level, he was not seen as anything special, but he really stepped up his development in the final two years of his time below senior level to become a highly impressive defender. Very comfortable on the ball, a goal threat in the air and a good shooter, he is one to watch in the coming years.
Able to play at either defensive midfield or centre-back, Rodrigo Caio was one of several players who first sprang to prominence for excellence while marking then-Santos star Neymar in domestic action.
That was two years ago, though, and the 20-year-old has improved beyond measure, becoming a regular in the Sao Paulo first team and one of the most impressive holding midfielders of the 2013 season.
He is beginning to spend a lot of time at centre-back, where his ability in the air and his distribution skills can come to the fore. He still needs to bulk up to make it to the very top, but the technical skills are there for him to become a very good defensive player down the line.
Another quick and versatile attacker, 24-year-old Marquinhos is not set to be an international on a regular basis but could prove a very useful addition to many sides.
Marquinhos' skill set is wide-ranging, meaning he can act as a central creative playmaker or a wide forward or even play off the central striker. Technically and physically, he has the ability to succeed at a higher level.
His contract is ending this summer, per the Tribuna da Bahia. Vitoria are without the financial means to retain him, and he is reported to have offers from both Internacional and Bahia for the remainder of the campaign.
One of the most famous names on this list, 19-year-old Doria has already been at the top of the Brazilian game for two years. Alongside PSG's Marquinhos, he is seen as the long-term future of the centre-back position for the national side.
Tall and powerfully built, Doria was a commanding presence even at the age of 17 and has only improved in that respect. Equally impressive are his passing skills off his favoured left foot, which should help him go far in the game.
While he may seek out a stepping stone en route to Europe, a number of European sides had already been heavily linked according to a previous report from the Daily Mail's Simon Jones. This year could well be his last in Brazilian football for the time being.
Despite all the goings-on at the club off the pitch under the former presidency, Flamengo responded relatively well last season to claim the Copa do Brasil title. Midfielder Luiz Antonio was central to that success.
Able to play either as the holding midfielder or in a box-to-box role, the 23-year-old is highly impressive, and he is a composed presence when in possession in tight areas.
Flamengo lost Elias following his loan spell from Sporting and would hate to lose Luiz Antonio in quick succession. Given the club's financial reality, though, a good offer would be hard to resist.
Thiago Mosquito's performances for Brazil in last year's U17 World Cup attracted great attention from European scouts.
Now 18, the youngster is legally able to make a switch to Europe at any point. Having already made three appearances for his club in the Copa Libertadores, he looks set to be given a platform to make his case over the remainder of the campaign.
Teammate Nathan is another who will be of great interest over the years ahead, but it is predatory striker Mosquito who looks better equipped to make a move in the short-term future.
Sao Paulo attacking midfielder Boschilia, a graduate from Brazil's U17 World Cup squad of last year, is beginning to make strides at the first-team level.
Boschilia's strength lies in his ability off his precocious left foot. Whether it be in finishing or setting up others for chances with crosses or through-balls, he demonstrates wonderful control of the football.
He is an intelligent player, always looking to make himself available to receive the ball in and around the box—a fact that saw him start above Gabriel Barbosa and Fluminense talent Kenedy for his country. A big season awaits as the 18-year-old looks to prove himself at senior level for the first time.
Few could have predicted the giant strides 21-year-old Lucas Silva would make over the past 12 months. He was well regarded but never seen as particularly special.
Lucas, though, was an important player for Cruzeiro in the latter stages of the 2013 campaign as they charged to the Brasileirao title. Playing as the primary defensive midfielder, he excelled and demonstrated excellent development in the defensive aspects of his game.
From an early age, he was always seen as an excellent passer, but he has now added defensive intelligence to his game. Combined with increased physical strength, he has evolved into a potentially excellent defensive midfielder.
Now 24, Atletico Paranaense centre-back Manoel continues to grow as a player with each passing year, having always been seen as promising as a youngster.
When Atletico were relegated in 2011, the defender was thought to be possibly heading for the exit door. However, he stuck with the club and ensured not only immediate promotion but also Libertadores qualification upon their Serie A return.
A physical giant, Manoel is phenomenal in the air and has acquired a reputation as an accomplished man-marker. This season will almost certainly be his last at the club and probably in the Brasileirao as well.
Another young star to have emerged at Cruzeiro during their title-winning campaign, Mayke is one of the few full-backs of outstanding potential currently remaining in Brazil.
Promoted to the senior squad at the start of 2013, the speed with which the right-back established himself as a first-team regular was surprising, even to fans of the club. Alternating the position with the experienced Ceara, Mayke barely put a foot wrong.
Tall, powerful and quick across the ground, he has all the physical attributes required to be a top-level full-back, and he has shown himself to be perfectly at home in attacking areas. If he can maintain those levels this season, he will be heading to Europe for a substantial sum in the near future.
Last season's Brasileiro top scorer with 21 goals, Ederson stayed loyal to Atletico Paranaense despite speculation he could leave. He has begun the 2014 season in fine style with three Copa Libertadores goals.
On the surface, there is nothing spectacular about the 25-year-old striker, but his combination of strength, speed and finishing technique means he will always be a goal threat at any level.
It is highly unlikely that Ederson will ever be regarded as an elite striker, but he could do a useful job for many second-tier European sides. With Brazil also desperately short of quality in attack, opportunities could always open up internationally in the future.
Entering his third season as a regular figure at first-team level, 21-year-old midfielder Gabriel has made himself a senior figure within a Botafogo side that has consistently lost its best players over the past few seasons.
A defensive midfielder of some potential, Gabriel's strongest assets lie in his physicality and his passing ability. He is excellent at dispossessing opponents and looks to quickly spring his side onto the counter attack.
Given Botafogo's ever-perilous financial state, there is no saying when Gabriel's time to leave may come. Should he continue to stand out this season, it would be a surprise if he was still at the club in 12 months' time.
At 28, Flamengo striker Hernane is the oldest player selected, but he has shown with his scoring record over the past two or three seasons that he has the potential to play at a higher level.
Last season, following his eight goals as Flamengo secured Copa do Brasil success, there was even an attempt to see the striker force his way into the Brazil squad ahead of the coming World Cup. Sadly for Hernane, that now looks highly unlikely.
Another to have turned down a move to China in January, as initially suggested by newspaper O Globo (h/t China.org.cn), he will still be hopeful of one more financially rewarding move in the remaining years of his career.
Our list concludes with another Cruzeiro player: 22-year-old versatile forward Ricardo Goulart, who scored 10 goals to help his side to the Brazilian title last year.
While his form has been more inconsistent thus far in 2014, he has stepped up when needed most for his side with four goals in Copa Libertadores action, where Cruzeiro have reached the last 16.
Goulart's energy in attack is impressive, and it unsettles defenders. He is also adept at both finishing chances and providing for others. Repeat his performances this season, and a big European move will undoubtedly beckon.