Neymar at Santos
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Jimmy Baikovicius

Endrick: Brazil’s newest prodigy and Neymar’s potential successor

The history of the beautiful game is littered with stories of Brazilian talent. From the stories of Pele setting the world alight as a teenager, to the unbelievable pace and power of el Phenomenon and, more recently, the dazzling tricks and magic of players such as Neymar and Ronaldinho. The World Cup’s most successful national team have proven a conveyor belt for some of the game’s most defining players, with popular sentiment claiming that if the English invented football, the Brazilians perfected it. For the last decade or so, many Brazilian fans have held hope that Santos’ heir to Pele, Neymar, would deliver another World Cup success. But with Neymar claiming that 2022 could prove his last World Cup, many may soon turn to Endrick as the next in this illustrious line.

The story of many Brazilian footballers is one of rags to riches – tales of emerging from the favelas to achieve untold fame and fortune are tapestries often woven within the team. Players like Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Manchester United’s Antony demonstrate how many of Brazil’s squad have come over almost impossible odds to represent A Seleção. A similar story of poverty has affected their newest wonderkid in Endrick Felipe Moreira de Sousa, who grew up struggling to play football on dirty streets and dry fields. His family grew up poor and often struggled to have consistent meals and electricity, which led to Endrick promising his father that he would become a footballer in order to get them out of their impoverished situation.

After impressing Brazilian giants Palmeiras at a charity tournament, the club offered a lifeline to Endrick’s family as they gifted them accommodation, and Endrick fulfilled his promise as his father cleaned for the club and ate food with the players. This upbringing has given Endrick determination seemingly similar to goal machine Erling Haaland, with Endrick saying: “I am never fully satisfied with my football; I know I can become better if I dedicate myself. My great strength is willpower.”

This power and desire to win can be seen on the pitch, in a robust attacking force that has seen comparisons to el Phenomenon, Endrick has the dribbling ability, power, and pace to speed round or bully players more than five years his senior, alongside holding up the play with an expert technical ability. This has led to the wonderkid netting more than 165 goals in 169 games for the Palmeiras academy, collecting more than 11 trophies along the way.

He could prove to fulfil the prophecy that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes’

Promoted to the Palmeiras under 20s at just 15 years of age, his unquestionable talent became nationwide news after a standout performance in the 2022 Copinha, a tournament that has provided a springboard for Brazilian talents such as Kaka, Gabriel Jesus, and Neymar – the under-20s tournament has often seen players of a tender age attract international attention.

Palmeiras had never won the competition before Endrick joined the under-20s, and the 15-year-old would go on to have one of this century’s most impressive performances in the competition. Not since Neymar had a player appeared so dominant, with the young striker netting six goals in seven games, including a stunning solo strike against Real Ariquemes, the opening goal in the final and an astounding 20-yard overhead kick.

This inevitably led to Endrick winning the competition and player of the tournament, culminating in the striker eventually making his first team debut at just 16 years and two months old earlier this year. Although he has only just passed his 16th birthday, many claim that Europe’s giants are circling this prospect, with an apparent £62 million price tag set for the wonderkid. Teams such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid are all set to reportedly battle it out for his signature.

In the storied history of Brazilian football, there is often a story of tragedy mixed with the glory. Players such as Ronaldo, Adriano and Ronaldinho are oftentimes seen as tales of potential greatness as opposed to fully-realised brilliance. Injury, excessive partying, or a mix of the two often lead to players in Brazil being seen as becoming burnt out or failing to meet lofty expectations. In the world of Brazilian football, high expectations are common, and failure to meet them can be met with large hostility. On top of this, many fall to injury and become burnt out as clubs try and exploit the incredible talent their prodigies display. With an enormous price tag and European clubs circling at such a young age, it seems probable that Endrick could fail to meet these improbable and impossible expectations. But with the talent he is showing at an early age, and having scored his first goal for the club last night, it would be wrong to write him off anytime soon.

The biggest icon of Brazilian football – Pele – once said: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” If Endrick dedicates himself to the level of his icons, his potential is there and, as a powerful strong but quick goalscoring machine, he could prove to be the true successor to the hero of Brazilian football history. With a play style far away from the stereotypical Latin flair and much closer to that of Pele, he could prove to fulfil the prophecy that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes’.


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