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Endrick: Brazil's new €45m wonderkid has European giants fighting over him

15:00 GMT+3 28/01/2022
Endrick NXGN GFX
The 15-year-old is being pursued by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City, among others, after starring for Palmeiras in the recent Copinha

Back in 2008, a 15-year-old Santos forward by the name of Neymar emerged into the consciousness of Brazilian football fans with his appearances in the Copinha, one of the most prestigious youth tournaments anywhere in the world.

The competition, which brings together the best Under-20s players from around Brazil, has provided a springboard for countless Selecao stars of the past and present, including Kaka, Gabriel Jesus and Vinicius Jr.

But not since the emergence of the teenager who went onto become the subject of the most expensive transfer in football history has a player of such tender years made headlines in the competition.

Or at least that was the case until Endrick came along.

Over the course of January 2022, Brazilian football has been beguiled and bewitched by Endrick, who was voted Player of the Tournament by supporters after leading Palmeiras to the title.

Despite being, in most cases, far younger than both his team-mates and opponents, the 15-year-old scored six goals in seven games, including a superb solo strike against Real Ariquemes in the group stages, a stunning 20-yard overhead kick in the quarter-final win over Oeste, and the opening goal in the 4-0 final victory over Santos.

Though his name has been known by Palmeiras fans for some time, Endrick is now the talk of the whole country, as well as supporters of Europe's biggest clubs, who are seemingly queuing up to get their hands on what looks to be a generational talent.

Endrick's ability first came to the attention of professional clubs when he was playing at the Gol de Letra foundation, a charity that combines education and football for children from financially disadvantaged families.

Sao Paulo were the first professional club to show an interest in him, but after two years of undergoing trials with the Tricolor, they could not provide the economic package Endrick's family required to sign him at the age of 10.

Santos, too, liked what they saw but were unwilling to make an offer, leaving Palmeiras free to snap up the youngster by offering him and his family somewhere to live close to the Alviverde Football Academy, as well as a job at the training ground for his father, Douglas.

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"Palmeiras opened its doors to us, and we just have to thank the club," Endrick recalled in an interview with Globo Esporte. "They gave me everything, their efforts were essential for my life."

Endrick's mesmerising dribbling ability and ridiculous goal record - he has netted over 170 times in his five years with Palmeiras - soon earned him notoriety around the training ground, with first-team players both past and present keen to meet him.

One such star name was Gabriel Jesus, who remains the last Palmeiras academy product to successfully make the switch to a member of Europe's elite.

"He told me to keep scoring my goals, keep my feet on the ground, show humility, and keep progressing," Endrick told TV Palmeiras of his meeting with the Manchester City forward in 2019.

Not only is Endrick's goal record bordering on being unprecedented, what makes it all the more remarkable is that he has done it while consistently playing against opponents who are much older than him.

He made his debut for Palmeiras' U17s at the age of 14, before making the leap to the U20s squad a year later. In 2021, he made history by becoming the first player to appear in the U15, U17 and U20s Sao Paulo state finals within the same season, while the 2022 Copinnha marked the 11th trophy he has won for the Verdao.

"He's like a force of nature," Joao Paulo Sampaio, the coordinator of the Palmeiras academy, told UOL recently. "He always brings us something.

"As water goes downhill, or fire goes uphill, there's no way to hold him back."

Similar comments could be applied to Endrick's footballing hero, Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Manchester United's star will to win and ability to put a whole team on his back inspiring the teenager.

“Scoring a goal is a sensational thing, it is unique in football. Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol, and he is decisive in front of goal. I have to follow his lead," Endrick explained. "Before the games I envision Ronaldo [Nazario] and Cristiano. I try to follow their lead.

" When the game is very difficult, like a tough 1-1, I ask the guys to pass the ball to me, because I have this spirit of wanting to score goals. I will always want more."

Endrick, it seems, will not be satisfied until he is scoring goals at the highest level of the game, but what comes next for him?

He has already trained with the Palmeiras first team, and there have been calls for manager Abel Ferreira to include Endrick in his squad for the upcoming Club World Cup.

"He is 15 years old, he is a kid, and I like to look at these players and give them time," Ferreria, who has guided the club to back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles, said when asked about Endrick at a press conference. "We don’t need to be in a hurry or show anxiety.

"Sooner or later, he will play in the first team, but at 15 years old, the club giving him and his family a ticket to Disneyland is the best thing they can do for him!"

There are still expectations Endrick will force his way into the first-team picture at some stage in 2022, especially once he is able to sign a professional contract when he turns 16 in July, but sooner or later a deal will be agreed for him to move to one of Europe's footballing giants.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City have all been credited with interest in Endrick, with some reports claiming he would cost up to €45 million (£37.5m/$51m) already.

“I'm not going to lie, but I lie in bed at night thinking about it," Endrick said when asked about his future. "But then that passes and I'm thinking about the present.

"I try not to think about the future. If I focus on my present, the future will come quicker."

Regardless of where he ends up, Endrick's is a future that already looks incredibly bright.

The 'new Neymar'? He might be even better than that!

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