With Santos he has won consecutive Campeonato Paulistas in 2015 and 2016, being named Bola de Prata best newcomer in 2015 and was named in the Campeonato Paulista team of the season in 2016.
The Olympic Games will provide a grand stage for a whole host of talented youngster, to really shine and make a name for themselves in front of a global audience. The talent pool is far too deep for just one article, and as some of you may already know some players have already been covered in previous articles, thus I will be focusing on the gems that people may have just missed or that have received significantly less attention.
One such player is Gabriel Barbosa Almeida, yet another Brazilian wonder kid, although he is very much believed to be the real deal and has often drawn comparisons to former Santos superstar Neymar. He was first discovered by Santos legend Zito at the tender age of eight, while playing futsal for São Paulo’s junior side. Gabriel shone for Santos’ youth teams, incredibly scoring over six hundred times over an eight year period. His electric form earned him call ups to Brazil’s various youth sides, and he eventually began to train with the Santos senior side in 2012. He was quickly tied down by the Brazilian club with a huge €50 million buy out clause inserted into his contract. In January 2013 he made his senior debut for Santos at the age of just sixteen, and despite the fact he was often played out of position and off the bench he scored a very respectable 54 goals in 148 competitive games. Although he may not be the most physical of players, he is a very technically gifted footballer with an eye for a pass and the ability to go on outrageous dribbles.
He also can deliver a devastating shot if he catches it sweetly with his emphatic left foot. Cool, calm and composed in front of goal, he has all the potential in the world and has a realistic chance of becoming one the world’s best forwards, although admittedly there is a long road ahead for that dream. One of his main areas for improvement would be to enhance the physical aspect of his game, but he has plenty of time to improve and develop at only 19-years-old. He is expected to play a big role in Brazil’s Olympic gold medal hunt and could prove to be an instrumental figure in the side, having already made an impact at the Copa America despite Brazil’s shortcomings. A big money move could soon be on the cards.
Another that could catch the eye is Hirving Lozano, the Mexican is a very exciting prospect. He has become known for his driving pace and power in which he goes past defenders. An intelligent player, he is no stranger to assists and knows where the back of the net is himself. Lozano grew up in Mexico City but signed for Pachuca. The club provided him with the perfect environment in which to naturally grow and develop. Debuting in 2014, he has since gone on to score 21 goals in 91 senior appearances. In 2016 he won the Mexican League title (Clausura) as he proved to be pivotal for the side. Called up to the senior national team in February 2016, he has converted in one out of his seven caps – in a 3-0 win over Canada. He recently represented Mexico at the most recent Copa America. Capable of playing anywhere up front, the 21-year-old netted twelve times last season. He has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United but as of yet nothing has come to fruition, but is seen as a potential replacement should Juan Mata depart. Although still developing he has all the makings of a future star, he was part of the squad that won the U20 CONCACF Championship, in which he picked up the golden boot, albeit it shared, and was named in the best team of the tournament. He was also part of the squad that triumphed in the CONCACF Men’s Olympic qualifying championship, in which he again was named in the team of the tournament, picking up the golden ball. In his title winning season, he was named the best offensive midfielder in the league and was once again included in the best eleven.
Bruno Fernandes is perhaps the least known on this list, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is an extremely talented footballer with tons of potential. The Portuguese midfielder currently plays his trade in Serie A for Udinese, where he debuted back in 2013. He currently has the record of scoring ten times in 86 appearances for the Italian club. His preferred position is central midfield but can play in attacking midfield or even as a secondary striker, should it be required of him. He has been capped by Portugal at various youth levels and has a respectable record with the U21 – scoring twice in seven games – and is now ready to try and put his mark on the U23 side. He has been known to play the ball off the ground more often than not and is known to prefer to cut inside. Perhaps his biggest criticism is his overall passing with his judgement sometimes being a bit off, but he has plenty of time to improve and his positives outweigh his negative aspects as he is extremely helpful to his team defensively and does like the long range shot. Perhaps if he can meet what is expected of him, it won’t be that long before Bruno Fernandes is a household name.
The last name on this list isn’t actually even going to the Olympics as he has been forced to withdraw due to circumstances in which he had no control or influence. For that reason I believe that he still deserves a place on this list, I’m talking of course about Jordan Larsson. Son of Celtic legend Henrik, the 19-year-old Swede was selected for his country’s Olympic squad but was withdrawn by his father. Jordan currently plays for Helsingborgs IF, where his father is currently the manager. Jordan was originally one of three forwards chosen by the Swedish Olympic manger, Hakan Ericson, but as his club only had one other striker available, his father made the decision to withdraw him from the squad. A youth product of Barcelona, he began his career at fourth tier Hogaborgs BK in 2012, before he transferred to his current club two years later, coincidentally making the same move his father did 22 years prior. He did this despite Manchester United reportedly being very interested. Renowned or his expert technique, he has often drawn comparison with his father. He has been capped by Sweden at various youth levels, most recently for the U21s where he scored on his debut – his only appearance to date. He is most effective as a centre forward but can play on the right wing to devastating effect. Dubbed the future of Swedish football by Ibrahimovic, much is expected of him and he will surely want to make a name for himself and not linger in the shadow of his legendary father.
They are just a few of the many talented footballers that will be on display in Rio, but in my humble opinion they are just some of the ones to keep a close eye on as they could make the difference for their teams in these Olympic Games. As always with football however, only time will tell.