Few surprises were expected when Brazil coach Tite named his squad for this month’s Brasil Global Tour double-header against Russia and Germany — but Anderson Talisca’s inclusion was certainly that.
To those who have followed his progress in Turkey with Besiktas this season, however, his call-up is anything but.
At age 24, Talisca is five years into a career that kicked off in 2013, when he debuted in senior football with Bahia. And he wasted little time making a name for himself, his first goal arriving in style against Sao Paulo in the world-famous Morumbi.
The following year, the teenager became a first-team regular and quickly took on a leading role for the club. A dead ball specialist, he also earned a reputation as a great dribbler and began turning heads at home and abroad.
Bahia knew they would be unable to hold onto their latest gem for long, and a 2014 relegation saw Talisca head to Portugal to join local giants Benfica.
Talisca made a fine start to life in Portugal and quickly earned his first call-up to the senior Brazil roster, when he was invited by then-coach Dunga to replace the injured Lucas Moura in the squad for November 2014 Brasil Global friendlies versus Turkey and Austria.
It wasn’t the first time he’d worn the famous yellow jersey, having already represented his country at youth level and starring in the illustrious Touloun tournament.
His fine performances in France brought attention from a number of Premier League clubs, with Jose Mourinho revealing in 2014 that only an issue obtaining a work permit had prevented a mega-money move to Chelsea.
After initially starring in Benfica, Talisca would lose regular starting place in the team, and was eventually loaned to Besiktas. Always ready to display his sharp tongue, he quickly admitted he wasn’t there by design.
"That’s what Benfica wanted, so what can I do?” he asked upon his arrival in Istanbul. “What player would not want to stay at Benfica?”
But his loan move would not be the backwards step he seemingly anticipated. In fact, the 24-year-old has made huge strides since his move, recapturing the sort of form that earned interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Now he has the opportunity to secure an unlikely spot at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
His task this month is show Brazil coach Tite that he can offer something the current squad doesn’t have. His ability to strike the ball ferociously from long range and his invention in tight spaces could prove him to be the wildcard the Selecao are searching for to help break down deep-lying defences.
His eye for passing and pace and power in transition could see him become a valuable commodity — someone to whom Brazil could turn in games in which they are desperately seeking some inspiration.
One big question the player himself will have to answer is whether he has the tactical discipline to fit into Tite’s structured tactical setup, and he will have to shrug his reputation as a soloist who struggles to fit into the general team play.
The coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on him this month and, being a relative unknown to those around him in Moscow and Berlin, will be given the opportunity to make a first impression.
If he can knuckle down and prove he has the discipline to integrate himself into a settled environment, a ticket back to Russia late this year could yet be on offer.
With Tite intent on conducting some minor experiments at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Friday, Talisca will be hoping he gets the chance to show exactly what he can offer.
"I want to give all the athletes opportunities right up until the end," Tite said. "The final roster for World Cup was not released yet because everybody is still being evaluated."
With this being the final set of friendlies before Tite confirms his final World Cup squad, Talisca faces a tough task to force his way into the squad in such a short period of time.
But if there’s one thing he’s never lacked, it’s the confidence to prove his worth. It’s a chance he likely doubted he would get, but it’s one that has arrived at his talented feet. Now it’s up to him to grab the opportunity with both hands.