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Bruno Praxedes: Brazil's teenage midfield maestro earning Premier League and Bundesliga interest

15:00 GMT+3 19/11/2021
Bruno Praxedes NXGN GFX
The 19-year-old has starred since joining Red Bull Bragantino in June, playing a key role in their run to the Copa Sudamericana final

When it comes to youth football tournaments around the globe, few are as prestigious as the Sao Paulo Junior Soccer Cup.

The traditional curtain-raiser to the Brazilian domestic season, the Cophinha brings together 128 teams from around the country in a showcase of some of the best young talent anywhere in the world.

Among those to have broken out into the wider public consciousness at the competition include World Cup winners Cafu, Rai and Dida, as well as current Selecao stars Marquinhos, Vinicius Jr. and Antony.

With the 2021 edition of the tournament cancelled due to Covid-19, the last time the Copinha was played came back in January 2020, when one teenager stood out above the rest.

At just 17 years of age, Bruno Praxedes ran the show for eventual champions Internacional, controlling the midfield area from start to finish.

The tall, slender left-footer showcased his excellent vision when building possession out from defence while also illustrating his all-round ability by pushing forward and providing goals for his team.

Six weeks later, Praxedes was coming off the bench for the Internacional first team in the Copa Libertadores, though as he prepares for his first senior continental final this weekend, it is with another club that his career has truly taken off.

Praxedes will be part of the Red Bull Bragantino squad that takes on Athletico Paranaense in Saturday's Copa Sudamericana final, following a campaign where he has truly announced himself as a star of the future.

The 19-year-old has come a long way in a short time, with 'Bragabull' already the third club he has represented following a tumultuous start to his career.

Born in Itaborai, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Praxedes began his formal footballing education with Fluminense.

He quickly emerged as a talent to watch, earning call-ups to the Brazil age-groups, before a controversy when he was part of the Under-17s squad brought an abrupt end to his time with the Tricolor.

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When asked which team he supported during a social media Q&A, Praxedes replied by saying: "Follow the leader", suggesting that he was a fan of then-Serie A table-toppers and Fluminense's crosstown rivals, Flamengo.

There was subsequent uproar among the club's supporters, and shortly after Praxedes had his contract terminated, allowing Internacional to sign him on a free transfer in early 2019.

Little over a year later he found himself in the first team, as first Eduardo Coudet and then his successor Abel Braga found use for the talented teenager.

“Praxedes enchants me," said Coudet, the coach who handed Praxedes his professional debut, in 2020. "He has a lot of quality, especially with his final ball.

"He is a great player. He resembles [Giovani] Lo Celso."

By the end of the delayed 2020 season, Praxedes was a regular starter for Inter, but found minutes harder to come by once the new campaign began in the spring of 2021.

His lack of game time alerted Bragantino, who are playing in just their second top-flight season, to his potential availability, and in June they tabled an offer of R$36 million (£5m/$6.5m) for the youngster.

The offer was accepted by Internacional, in part due to their own financial difficulties, and was seen by many as a coup for Bragantino as the Red Bull group begin to put their stamp on the South American game, just as they have in Europe.

Praxedes has certainly shown why so much was invested in him during his first six months with the club, scoring three goals - including a couple of long-range stunners - and laying on three assists across 22 games in all competitions.

His first goal for the club, a 25-yard arrowing shot into the top corner against Cuiaba, drew comparisons to another midfielder who thrived in Red Bull colours, Marcel Sabitzer, and there have already been murmurings that RB Leipzig are keeping tabs on Praxedes' development.

Bayer Leverkusen, Watford and Lens have also reportedly shown interest in the youngster, who since the departure of Bragantino's star man, Claudinho, to Zenit St. Petersburg in August has taken over as the club's maestro in midfield, playing more as a No.10 than in the holding role many believe he will settle into once he gains more experience.

Bragantino will certainly need Praxedes to be at the top of his game as they head into their first continental showpiece at the weekend, and having recently spent a month on the sidelines with an injury, he should be fresh and ready for the challenge.

Regarded as 'the crown jewel' of Red Bull's Brazilian project, a lot is resting on Praxedes' shoulders, but there is nothing stopping him from following in the footsteps of those other former stars of the Copinha junior tournament.

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