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'You can't sell Reinier for €30m!' - Madrid's latest bargain buy in Brazil could be 'the new Kaka'

19:15 GMT+3 20/01/2020
Reinier Flamengo
The attacking midfielder is only 18 but played a crucial cameo role in Flamengo's stunning 2019 campaign and is now moving to the Santiago Bernabeu

Over the past three years, Brazil has become the destination of choice for Real Madrid when it comes to recruiting the world's most promising young talents.

The Blancos struck early to clinch the signings of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, with the Flamengo and Santos wonderkids agreeing terms just days after blowing out the candles on their 18th birthday cakes.

Now they have struck again, returning to Flamengo to complete a €35 million (£29m/$39m) deal for Reinier, the 18-year-old playmaker who, in his few short months in the Rubro-Negro first team, has drawn inevitable comparisons with none other than Selecao legend Kaka.

Flamengo had an incredible 2019. Inspired by the arrival of ex-Benfica boss Jorge Jesus in the middle of the year, the Rio side were crowned state, national and South American champions in the space of 12 months, a near-unprecedented treble not seen since the days of Pele's Santos.

They might even have added the world title to their trophy case, pushing Liverpool hard throughout the Club World Cup final in December before finally coming unstuck in extra time.

Such success inevitably means sacrifices must be made. In Flamengo's case, that meant taking on a punishing fixture list that would have given even Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp pause for thought.

Jesus' men played an incredible 74 games over the course of 2019 – on average, more than one every five days – and such a workload would have been impossible to manage were it not for the emergence of fresh young talents such as Reinier to take the burden off their first-team regulars.

Reinier was thrown into first-team action by Jesus almost as soon as the Portuguese coach arrived in Rio. His debut came in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a Copa Libertadores last-16 tie, when he entered off the bench in the second leg for Gabriel Barbosa with Flamengo deadlocked at 2-2 with Ecuador's Emelec.

Flamengo ultimately prevailed on penalties in the Maracana and went on to win the Copa in thrilling circumstances thanks to Gabigol's last-gasp double to down River Plate.

Reinier's contribution, however, was minimal, Jesus preferring the likes of Everton Ribeiro, Giorgian De Arrascaeta and the fantastic Bruno Henrique to provide the creative spark on his continental adventure.

The teenager was allowed to shine domestically, though. In 14 Serie A outings in the second half of 2019 (just eight of those as a starter), he helped himself to an impressive six goals from midfield, as well as two assists.

He holds the unique distinction of never having finished on the losing side since making his debut, winning 14 and drawing just one of his first-team matches, and in the process earned a place in Brazil's Under-23 side that this month will attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Hardly surprising, then, that Jesus was enraged by his protege's departure.

“You cannot sell Reinier for €30m! Flamengo still don't know how to value their players,” the coach fumed earlier in January in an interview with CMTV after learning of the agreement with Madrid.

“I have introduced three players at Flamengo, one at 17, one at 18 and one at 19. They start some Flamengo games. The 17-year-old kid will now be sold to one of Europe's biggest teams for several million euros.”

Jesus' ire is understandable. Tall, upright and blessed with outstanding technical ability, Reinier's style is clearly similar to that of former AC Milan star Kaka, as well as a more recent arrival at San Siro, Lucas Paqueta.

But Reinier is much more than your average languid playmaker. He started his career as a defensive midfielder and has not forgotten the tenets of that role as he moved up the field, frequently tracking back into his own half to win possession and boasting enviable ability off the ball as well as on it.

Team-mate Filipe Luis thinks he could even outshine Kaka. 

"I remember Kaka because he played with his head up, and he was lethal in the area," the full-back told Marca. "Reinier has even more quality than Kaka with his back to goal. Time will tell whether or not he is like Kaka.

"He has surprised me at 17 in that he always chooses the correct option. When he has to pass, he passes. He plays with his head up.

"It really is a great signing; I congratulate Real Madrid. He isn't 100 per cent ready. He is 17 years old, but has potential and a great future."

Reinier, for his part, isn't getting ahead of himself. When asked about his proposed move to Spain earlier this month, he responded, “We are going to wait and see what happens."

However, on January 20, the day after Reinier turned 18, Madrid and Flamengo officially confirmed the transfer, with the player, who has signed a contract until 2026, due to link up with Castilla once he has finished playing for Brazil in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

All transfers of this nature are a calculated risk. Like Vinicius and Rodrygo, Reinier arrives at Madrid with precious little first-team experience, and both his compatriots have had to bide their time in an intensely competitive squad, showing only glimpses of their true talent thus far.

Time is on their side, though, and Reinier won't be rushed when he arrives either.

But, with talent to spare and the chance to further enhance his reputation with Brazil this month, Reinier has every opportunity to make the grade and push towards that most daunting of objectives: emulating Kaka and becoming a world-class star in his own right.