To complete our hat trick of the major Latin American leagues we turn to Brazil. The five-time world cup winners are a continuous conveyor belt of talent and there is always a desire to be the first to know who is the next big thing to come out of Brazil. So be the envy of your friends and read on with the Top Ten Brazilian League Players currently playing on home soil, all of whom are aged under-23.
10. Leandro Damião – Internacional
The 21-year-old striker was top scorer for the Inter B-team in 2009 and started the State Championships with 3 goals in 3 games to earn his place in the first team. His current goalscoring record is 8 goals in 18 games and he was part of the Internacional side that won this season’s Copa Libertadores, coming off the bench in to score in the 2nd leg. His favourite actor: Will Smith…hmmm. His idol: Ronaldo…that’s more like it!
9. Boquita – Corinthians
The 2o-year old midfielder has become a major part of the Corinthians midfield. He has made over 50 appearances and has already picked up a State Championship and Copa do Brasil (both 2009). The manager who called him up to the first team, Mano Menezes, is now the coach of the Brazilian national team. Don’t be surprised if we see Boquita make the step up from the U-20s, where he performed well in the World Championships in Egypt last year.
8. Jucilei – Corinthians
Another Corinthians midfielder, Jucilei is now 22 so coming to an age when Europe is likely to come calling. He made his debut for Brazil against the United States, but has been a firm fixture in the Corinthians midfield since joining in 2009. At his previous club, Malucelli, he won the State Championships and was voted the player of the season. Powerful, fast and versatile he can play across the midfield even as a winger with these dribbling skills.
7. Ciro – Sport Recife
At 21 Ciro is already Sport Recife’s number 9 and he has earned that shirt. Back to back State Championships might not be a great achievement (Sport have won the Campeonato Pernambuco five years running) but top scorer in the 2010 edition with 13 goals certainly is. His record at international level is intimidating, 9 goals in 10 games for the U-20s doesn’t need explaining. He is the definition of a fox in the box or as the Brazilians probably don’t say – “raposa na caixa”.
6. Dentinho – Corinthians
Still 21 and still at Corinthians despite interest from Europe. The diminutive striker has already hit the back of the net over 50 times for the Todo Poderoso. He was top scorer in the 2008 State Championship but in 2009 he wasn’t considered the club’s main striker. That would be because his strike partner was a certain Ronaldo. Unfazed he partnered the footballing legend up front as they won the 2009 state championships. In 2010 he got his first Copa Libertadores goal and for the national team he has been on the score sheet for the U-20s. Bad news for the European clubs who are interested, his release clause is said to be around 36 million Euros!
5. Ganso – Santos
Currently out injured with knee ligament damage Ganso is sidelined for six months. A great shame because he is incredibly talented, and formed a great understanding with Neymar and Robinho last season at Santos. In 2009 he was voted the best rookie of the Brazilian Championships. Last month he made his debut for the Brazilian national team in their 2-0 victory over United States. Hopefully the 20-year-old attacking midfielder can overcome his injury problems, he was sidelined for 6 months in 2007 as well, because he is a great talent well worth keeping an eye out for.
4. Wellington Silva – Fluminense
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal usually spot exceptional talent early (Henry, Petit, Fabregas etc. etc.) so the fact that 17-yr old winger Wellington Silva has already signed for Arsenal speaks volumes. He is set to join the Londoners in 2011, for now he is at Fluminense and spending time learning from the best. The best being Deco, Fred and Belletti all players with experience at the very highest level. On his one trip to Arsenal he impressed, scoring the winner in a reserve match against rivals Manchester United. For the national side he has already represented the Brazil U-17 team at the World Cup at the age of 16.
3. Giuliano – Internacional
Arguably the most talented of Internacional’s current crop of youngsters that were involved in the 2010 Copa Libertadores triumph. He made his mark in the final, scoring in both legs against Mexican opponents Chivas taking his total in the competition to six just 2 behind the overall top scorer Thiago Ribeiro. At the most recent U-20 World Cup he shined for the national side earning the Bronze Ball award. He was also part of the Brazil U-20 team that won the South American Youth Championships at the beginning. A bright future for this 20-year-old attacking midfielder.
2. Keirrison – Santos (on loan)
The 21-year-old striker is currently on the books of Barcelona. Need I go on? Ok here is a quick recap of his path to the Camp Nou. He burst through the ranks at provincial side Coritiba becoming the club’s top goalscorer in 2007, the following year he was league top scorer in the State Championships. With a goal every other game record it was inevitable that a bigger club would come in for him. In 2009 Palmeiras signed him. Within six months Barça had snapped him up for 14 million Euros and then loaned him out to Benfica, Fiorentina and this season Santos. He is yet to score in 4 games for Peixe but for those who doubt his goalscoring ability just watch K9 in action.
1. Neymar – Santos
Chelsea made a £25 million bid for him and it was turned down. There was outcry in Brazil when Dunga didn’t put him on the plane to Brazil. What on earth is so good about the 5 ft 8 in striker? How about young player of the year 2009 State Championships, followed by player of the year next season for his 14 goals in 19 games that helped win Santos the title. Still not convinced? 5 goals in one game against hapless Guarani in the Copa do Brasil which Santos also went on to win. Scoring on his debut for the senior national side against USA last month. Want more evidence as to why he’s top of my list? Just watch this
That’s it for this week, as a bonus for reading to the end I give you a sneak preview of Tuesday’s Top Ten. I’m running through the funniest footballer’s nicknames featuring “Desert Maradona” and “One Size”…see you then!