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The next Fernandinho and Willian? Shakhtar's new Brazilian teen stars set for the top

17:09 EAT 17/09/2019
Marcos antonio Tete Shakhtar GFX
Marcos Antonio and Tete may not be household names yet, but strong showings in the Champions League could set them on a path towards superstardom

Shakhtar Donetsk and Brazilian footballers. It may be one of the quirkier footballing marriages of the past 15 years, but it has borne plenty of fruit during that time.

Fernandinho, Douglas Costa, Willian, Fred, Luiz Adriano, Bernard, Alex Teixeira and Elano are just some of the Selecao stars to have passed through the Ukrainian champions since the turn of the century. Indeed, Shakhtar have proved to be a tried and tested breeding ground for South American youngsters to hone their game away from the limelight, while also getting a taste of Champions League football.

Despite some concerns that that pipeline of talent could be about to end over the past two seasons, the signs are that those fears were premature.

With Portuguese coach Luis Castro replacing Roma-bound compatriot Paulo Fonseca as head coach, Shakhtar head into their clash with Manchester City on Wednesday having won all seven of their Ukrainian Premier League matches to date - scoring almost twice the number of goals of any other side.

And while Taison is the Brazilian who grabs most of the headlines after his proposed summer move to AC Milan fell through, it is the teenage talents of Marcos Antonio and Tete that are most exciting those who watch Shakhtar on a regular basis.

Marcos Antonio has been on the radar of scouts and youth football experts for some time after a string of impressive performances for Brazil's Under-17 World Cup side which finished third in 2017. A product of the Club Athletico Paranaense academy, he arrived at Shakhtar in February following a six-month spell with Portuguese second division side Estoril.

Signed for a reported fee of €3.5 million (£3.1m/$3.8m), he has wasted little time in becoming a regular starter with his new club. Though most comfortable as a defensive midfielder sitting in front of the back four, he is just as adept at breaking the lines and appearing in the opposition's penalty area.

"I like the performances of Casemiro and [Philippe] Coutinho. Excellent passing, great shooting, pace and the ability to score goals are the best attributes of any player," he told Shakhtar's website when asked who he models his game on.

Perhaps choosing two so obviously disparate players perfectly sums up the varying qualities to his game. A metronomic passer when on the ball, Marcos Antonio rarely tries anything too difficult when in possession. Instead it is the speed in which he is able to receive the ball before handing it over to a team-mate which helps him stand out from other midfielders of a similar age.

His pressing game has also impressed onlookers, with Fonseca even asking him to briefly fill the role of a central striker and stand on the edge of the penalty area when opposition sides looked to play out from the back from goal-kicks. He then would drop back if he was not able to retrieve the ball.

That is not the only occasion in which he will appear in the final third, however, with his recent goal against Mariupol at the end of August summing up his willingness to get forward. He began the attack inside the centre circle before popping up on the edge of the six-yard box to round the goalkeeper and add the finishing touch to a free-flowing move.

It was in that same game that fellow teenager Tete grabbed his first two goals of the season, cutting in from the right-hand side to score with his left foot. He also hit the post and forced the goalkeeper into a sprawling save as he put in a virtuoso performance during the 5-1 win.

Nicknamed 'Hurricane' in his homeland, Tete never played a senior match for Gremio before being snapped up by Shakhtar for €10m (£8.9m/$11m) at the start of March. Despite Brazil's struggles at the Under-20 Copa Sudamericano in early 2019, Tete stood out as a potent attacking weapon, and it was not long until he would arrive in Europe.

His first 14 matches in a Shakhtar shirt have yielded six goals and three assists. These included a double and an assist in last season's 4-0 Ukrainian Cup final win over FK Inhulets and the crucial equaliser against Dynamo Kiev which sealed the Ukrainian Premier League title for the defending champions.

Gifted on the ball and supremely fast without it, the only issue with his game going forward is likely to be his predictability as he constantly looks to cut onto his stronger left foot. Whether his future remains on the right or he is instead moved centrally - where he has already featured for Shakhtar sporadically - is as yet unknown, but he is a player with all the raw materials to cause problems for even the tightest of defensive units.

Both he and Marcos Antonio are likely to feature against City in Kharkiv this week, and their performances could go a long way to deciding whether Castro's side are able to make it into the knockout rounds. The big stage is waiting for Shakhtar's latest Brazilian teen stars - and taking down the Champions League favourites would be some way to announce themselves.