A contract dispute means the ex-Atletico Paranaense man has hardly played, but the young Brazilian's early flashes have been promising, writes Marcus Alves...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: March 13, 1996
- Place of birth: Blumenau, Brazil
- Height: 5ft 10in
- Position: Attacking midfielder
- Former club(s): Atlético Paranaense
- International: Brazil U20 (14 caps, 3 goals)
Just 705 minutes. Or 20 games. And one goal since he made his first appearance in February 2014. If you’ve been wondering who Chelsea’s £4.5 million signing is, don’t worry – not even many Brazilians have had a chance to see him in action.
He’s the new Oscar, as some used to dub him at Atletico Paranaense. Perhaps more accurately, he's a slower version of Oscar who's still seduced a host of big clubs like Real Madrid, Monaco and Hamburg after impressing at the 2013 Under-17 World Cup and scoring five times in the United Arab Emirates. Nathan has been at the centre of a contract dispute with his former team that cost him almost the three last months' worth of playing time, until Brazilian super agent Giuliano Bertolucci and his partner Kia Jooarabchian showed up with an offer sent by Chelsea that Atletico couldn't resist. And not before some drama, too, as third party fund Doyen Sports Group tried to lure him to Porto.
Why you need to know him
Neymar, Kaka, Diego Ribas and more – Brazilian stars have gone a long way despite super-protective fathers smothering their careers. Nathan is the latest who can be added to this club as his dad, Jose Carlos de Souza, decided to drop everything in his birth city of Blumenau, in Santa Catarina State, to dedicate himself full-time to the 19-year-old midfielder’s future.
Before finally sealing the deal last Monday, he believes he made more than five trips to Europe to try and find a move that could be attractive. He'd been in London a few times along the way, and even told FourFourTwo that in one meeting he'd lunched with PSG defender Marquinhos’s father, and was then convinced why he should trust Bertolucci and choose Chelsea above the rest.
The man who also controls the careers of fellow compatriots Willian, Oscar, Ramires and Lucas Piazon promised to make Nathan one of the best players in the world. That’s all he wanted to hear.
Nathan started with street football, moved to futsal and was discovered by one of Brazil's best scouts, Klaus Camara, now working for champions Cruzeiro. But Camara had to wait almost six months to bring the promising youngster to Atletico Paranaense.
Nathan was finally realising his dream, and not even the distance from home was a problem for someone who'd already failed trials with Gremio, Internacional de Porto Alegre and Figueirense.
He beat all of that by earning the No.10 shirt and thus nudging himself into the spotlight. “This one is definitely here to stay,” said Brazil's former team coordinator Alexandre Gallo before 2013 U17 World Cup.
He wasn’t wrong. Nathan could have been included in the U20 side that battled for the title in New Zealand in June if it wasn’t for the year-long contract dispute between club and footballer about the finishing date of his deal. Atletico Paranaense claimed there was a clause that automatically renewed it for three more seasons, while Nathan's father argued that they had not signed any such agreement.
Nathan had to cope with retaliation. He was dropped several times to the U23 side, and taken out of the team for refusing to agree with the terms – one of the reasons why he played so few games for the 2001 Brazilian champions. The nightmare, however, is now over.
Despite the negativity, he has been training at Cobham for the last few weeks and should be officially introduced during Chelsea's US tour at the end of June.
His incredible eye for a pass will definitely be key to him finding his place at Stamford Bridge. Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho has already said that Nathan's name wasn’t suggested by him – which means he’ll probably head to one of Chelsea's feeder sides next season. That's not a huge issue for the 19-year-old, however, as some assured playing time would be welcome after the draining fight he's had to deal with in the last few months. Finally, he'll have the chance to prove he can be more than a new Oscar.
He has never completed a 90-minute match for Atletico Paranaense, and only scored once for the senior side. He’s also showed a slow pace throughout this time, probably something to worry about considering the Premier League’s often-frantic dynamics.
“Nathan has all the ingredients to be one of the greatest, but his time with Atletico Paranaense was disturbed by this contract dispute,” said Atletico’s former coach Claudinei Oliveira in 2014.
“He’d have a guaranteed place in the team from the moment he started focusing on his game and forget about these other things.”
Did you know?
Nathan was only 17 when he made his professional debut for Atletico Paranaense against Peruvian Sporting Cristal in the 2013 Copa Libertadores. He came off the bench alongside former Arsenal starlet Fran Mérida. What might the former ‘next Cesc Fàbregas’ have shared with his old team-mate about the Premier League?
What happens next?
Vitesse Arnhem? FFT is only slightly kidding. Benfica had been tracking him before the Blues wrapped up their deal, though, and Portugal could be Nathan's home for a season-long loan.
The Primeira Liga champions held talks about his transfer in the past, and could be a safe bet for his transition to European football.