Matheus Franca NXGN GFXGOAL

Matheus Franca: Flamengo's teenage sensation on Real Madrid and Man City's radar

It is said at Flamengo 'do it at home', referencing the club's proud tradition of producing homegrown heroes for the first team.

In recent years, the Red and Black have produced some of Brazil's greatest talents, with Vinicius Junior and Lucas Paqueta becoming stars of the European game, while there remains hope that Reinier will follow in their footsteps, despite his disappointing spell on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid.

That conveyor belt of talent is showing no sign of slowing down, either, if Matheus Franca is anything to go by.

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The current jewel of the Flamengo academy, Franca has already broken into the first team after a superb 2021 campaign at youth-team level.

He averaged a goal or an assist every 45 minutes for the club's Under-17s and U20s sides, scoring 19 times in 18 appearances while creating countless opportunities for his team-mates.

That form not only earned Franca a promotion to the senior ranks, but also a new five-year contract, signed in January, that contains the biggest release clause in Flamengo history: €100 million (£83m/$113.5m).

New manager Paulo Sousa made securing Franca's immediate future a priority when he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, and the attacking midfielder has already made two appearances under the Portuguese coach, to go with the pair of first-team games he played in towards the end of the 2021 campaign.

A first professional goal is yet to arrive, but given Franca's record and ability, it should not be too long before the 17-year-old begins making his mark at the Maracana.

A No.10 who looks to float between the opposition's midfield and defensive lines, Franca possesses the instincts and never-say-die attitude of some of the game's great goalscorers.

However, he is also constantly on the lookout for team-mates who may find themselves in better positions.

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“He has many important aspects to his game," Flamengo U20s coach, Fabio Matias, told GloboEsporte.

"In addition to technical and tactical ability, he has a very good understanding of the game.

"That makes him stand out because he interprets spaces well. The most talented players have an understanding of space and how to manage that.

"He also has the ability to be decisive in front of goal and is a great finisher."

Born in Sao Goncalo, Franca shares a birthplace with Vinicius, who currently holds the record for the biggest sale in Flamengo history at €45m (£39m/$50m).

And if reports in Spain are to be believed, the pair could be brought together at Real Madrid, with Los Blancos said to be at the front of the queue for a player who wears the No.7 shirt in tribute to his footballing hero, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Manchester City have also been credited with interest, with one report in Brazil suggesting that City director of football, Txiki Begiristain, is willing to part with a "truckload of money" to bring Franca to the Etihad Stadium.

Franca, for his part, dreams of one day heading for Europe, though his focus now is on making his mark at his boyhood club, whom he joined at the age of 12 having started his footballing education at Olaria.

He won countless titles while making his way through the youth ranks, capped by leading Flamengo to the prestigious Brasilerao U17s and Copa do Brasil U17s titles in 2021.

He has also made his mark on the international scene, playing his part in Brazil's triumph at the South American U15s Championship in 2019.

That squad also contained Santos duo Kaiky and Angelo Gabriel, along with Atletico Mineiro forward Savinho and Botafogo striker Matheus Nascimento – all of whom have been linked with big-money moves to Europe in recent months, with the Brazilian generation of 2004-born players regarded as one of the best in the world among youth-football experts.

Franca is not out of place among those talents, either, and is now just a matter of if, rather than when, he will make his own move away from Brazil.

Flamengo have 'done it at home' once more.

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