This is the second of two articles in which I have highlighted some of the best talent aged 21 or under currently on show in Brazil. I have avoided the more established players like Rodrigo Caio, Luan and Yerry Mina who have already played for their national teams and have been linked to moves abroad for several years to focus on some real up-and-comers. You can read the first article by clicking here.
Read on, you will definitely be hearing more about these lads in the future:
Jean – Bahia
You’ve heard people say ‘like father, like son’ a million times but there are few who the phrase could possibly be more applicable to than this man. Jean Paulo Fernandes Filho (filho means ‘son’ in Portuguese), the Bahia goalkeeper, is the progeny of Jean Paulo Fernandes, who was, you guessed it, the Bahia goalkeeper. The two are no longer on speaking terms owing to Jean the elder’s acrimonious divorce from Jean the younger’s mother but that has not stopped this youngster from following in his old man’s footsteps.
Aged just 21, Jean is the youngest first-choice goalkeeper in Brazil’s top-flight. The mere fact of being trusted in such a position at such a young age shows the sort of mentality Jean possesses, and fortunately for him it is a psychological fortitude backed up by the requisite physical attributes. At 6’2” he is not the most towering presence you will ever come across between the sticks but he more than makes up for it with his spring-loaded legs, which allow him to leap across the goal with impressive athleticism. He is also exceptionally quick over 10 yards, meaning he often comes off his line to intercept balls that you would expect the attacker to reach first.
Jean was first choice for Brazil’s youth side as they finished as runners-up in the 2015 U20 World Cup and he conceded just 5 times in the six games, including clean sheets in the semi and quarter finals, in what is traditionally a free-scoring tournament. Last year, after a difficult first few appearances in the Bahia shirt, he also claimed the number 1 jersey at club level and helped Bahia to promotion. In 2017 he will be kept busy as his side try to stave off the threat of an immediate return to the second tier.
The main weak-point of his game is his inability to command the area at set pieces or come out and claim the ball when it is crossed, though this will surely come with time and some good coaching. Jean is probably still not ready for a move to a top European club but could be seen at a more successful Brazilian side or a lesser European outpost before moving on to bigger and better things.
Richarlyson – Fluminense
In the first of these two articles I waxed lyrical about Fluminense’s Wendel but he is far from the only young talent currently making waves at the famous old Rio club. Left-back Léo already appears Europe-bound, with Genoa the interested party, Ecuadorian midfielders Jefferson Orejuela and Junior Sornoza have both shone this year and Gustavo Scarpa has been endlessly linked with moves across the Atlantic. Perhaps the most promising of Wendel’s club-mates, though, is the lightning fast winger-cum-forward Richarlison. Fluminense signed the now-20-year-old from América Mineiro for the start of the 2016 season and he has since gone from strength to strength.
Richarlison is theoretically right footed but you would have trouble noticing that from watching him play. He dribbles incredibly well with right and left and has scored more than half of his career goals with his supposedly weaker foot. He is most comfortable playing on the left of a front three, though if required he can also play on the right or through the middle, as he did on several occasions last year owing to his club’s dearth of options in the position. At the beginning of this year his performances earned him a place in the Brazil team for the South American U20 Championship where he was the stand-out player in a poor side that failed to qualify for May’s U20 World Cup in Korea.
His athleticism and long-legged running style are somewhat reminiscent of a young Gareth Bale and he can finish well when through one-on-one with the ‘keeper. This year he has upped his scoring rate, too, which, combined with his pace, physical presence and two-footed-ness, is surely a tantalising prospect for European buyers.
In June he almost moved to Palmeiras for what he claimed would have been a Brazilian record transfer fee only for the deal to fall through. He has also been subject of a bid from Ajax and reported interest from Lazio. Whether it is on his way to Europe or São Paulo we will probably see Richarlison heading for the Fluminense exit door sooner rather than later.
Júnior Tavares – São Paulo
Another report on young Brazilian players, another mention of a terrific attacking left-back. What else would you expect from the country that has produced the likes of Nilton Santos, Branco, Roberto Carlos and Marcelo?
The 20-year-old Tavares was born in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre and spent his formative years in the academies of the city’s two big clubs, Internacional and Grêmio. In 2016, after limited opportunities at Grêmio, he was loaned out to Joinville to play in last year’s Série B where he was also underused. Seeing potential, however, São Paulo stepped in and took him on loan for the second half of the year and he shone in the club’s U20 side.
This year he has been promoted to the senior ranks for good and has not looked out of place for a minute. Despite São Paulo’s struggles as a team Tavares has been one of the few consistent positives putting in solid performances as a left-back in a back four or a wing-back in a 3-4-3. He is quick and physically powerful and likes to beat defenders down the line before cutting the ball back into the box. He can also deliver looping crosses from deeper positions and can strike a set piece when called upon.
Rather predictably, the defensive side of his game could use some work. He quite often leaves space in behind that can be exploited by opposition wingers, does not appear too fond of tackling and is worryingly weak in the air. Certainly if he were to move to Europe soon he would be better suited as a wing-back than a full-back. This transfer window he has been strongly linked to a move to Ajax though he has just signed a contract extension that takes him up until 2021. Some more games under his belt and some more work on the training pitch and Tavares could become much sought after in years to come.