Meet the 9 most exciting Brazilian youngsters yet to join Europe's big guns
1. Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo, 22)
Caio has seemed on the brink of a departure from Brazil for a while now, with Atletico Madrid and Valencia both going close to landing him last summer. Those moves ultimately didn't materialise, though, which led to him cutting ties with superagent Jorge Mendes. His versatility has meant he's operated at right-back, centre-back and as a defensive midfielder; despite his tender years, he also became the main leader in the dressing room after club legend Rogerio Ceni’s retirement.
2. Valdivia (Internacional, 21)
The Brazilian version is arguably more well-rounded than his namesake
While his full name is Wanderson Ferreira de Oliveira, the 21-year-old has become better known in Brazil as Valdivia, in reference to the Chilean playmaker to whom the Internacional midfielder has been frequently compared. The Brazilian version is arguably more well-rounded than his namesake, though, capable of dribbling – something most of his countrymen are unable to do effectively these days – and finding the back of the net regularly.
3. Luis Henrique (Botafogo, 17)
When Henrique signed a contract with Puma last July, Olivier Giroud was the man who welcomed Botafogo’s 17-year-old sensation in a promotional video. The Frenchman could be performing similar duties in the summer, with Arsenal having already enquired about the striker through his agent, Kia Joorabchian. The teenager, who enjoyed a dream start to his career by scoring twice on his professional debut against Sampaio Correa last season, has a release clause of just €15m.
4. Richarlison (Fluminense, 18)
Richarlison is a phenomenon. He arrived at America Mineiro at the end of 2014 and hasn’t stopped since. It has been a rapid rise for the 18-year-old, who won a place in the first team, signed a deal with Nike, hooked up with Brazilian superagent Giuliano Bertolucci (a key player in Alexandre Pato's loan move to Chelsea), scored nine goals in Brazil’s second division and moved to Fluminense in less than a year.
He’s now the favourite to wear the No.9 shirt at this summer's Olympic Games in Rio and will be World Cup scapegoat Fred’s strike partner for Fluminense in the upcoming domestic campaign.
5. Gustavo Scarpa (Fluminense, 22)
Scarpa is the next big thing at Fluminense, the club who recently sold Kenedy to Chelsea and Gerson to Roma
Known as ‘Chutavinho’ (or ‘Shootavinho’ in English) because of the power in his shots, Scarpa is the next big thing at Fluminense, the club who recently sold Kenedy to Chelsea and Gerson to Roma. The 22-year-old was finally given a chance at the Rio de Janiero-based side last year after a series of loan spells, and impressed so much that he quickly earned a call-up to Brazil’s U23 squad.
6. Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras, 18)
Almost nine months: that’s how long it took Palmeiras to renew the contract of Gabriel after he scored 37 goals in 22 games in the U17 Sao Paulo State Championship in 2014. Since then he's been widely rated as the most promising youngster to have graduated from the club’s youth ranks in recent times.
Still immature, the 18-year-old striker has been brought to the attention of European sides by legendary compatriot Ronaldo, who’s been working as his mentor and advising him on a potential transfer. Arsenal are said to be among the clubs monitoring developments.
7. Vitinho (Corinthians, 15)
Vitinho was Brazil’s top scorer in the last South American U15 Championship with seven goals, and has already had a trial at Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have the chance to bring him to Europe when he turns 18 in three years, an option they are likely to take up if he continues to develop at the current rate.
Regarded as the most skilful player of his age group in Brazil, Vitinho has time to improve at home before coming to Europe later in his teens.
8. Gabriel (Santos, 19)
Gabigol, lethal inside the area and capable of beating defenders in one-on-one situations, could move to Paris Saint-Germain
Robinho, Kaka, Neymar and now Gabigol. Brazilian agent Wagner Ribeiro is doing it again and he believes the promising center-forward can emulate the success of the illustrious stars he previously helped move to Europe. Gabigol, lethal inside the area and capable of beating defenders in one-on-one situations, could move to Paris Saint-Germain, although Barcelona have a clause that gives them first refusal.
9. Thiago Mendes (Sao Paulo, 23)
Forget about Pato: Sao Paulo’s best footballer in 2015 was Thiago Mendes. The 23-year-old, who plays as a defensive midfielder, has been compared to Ramires in the past but could go on to even better things than the former Chelsea man. It's only a matter of time until he is snapped up by a European outfit.