Reigning South American champions Flamengo are an excellent example of how the global transfer market currently operates. The Rio de Janeiro giants look to bring back established players from Europe -- Zenit's Olympic gold medal winning attacking midfielder Claudinho is the latest example -- financed by the transfer of promising youngsters.
Vinicius Jr. is their big recent success, in addition to Lucas Paqueta and Reinier (although he has yet to make an impression in Europe). The latest Flamengo star is Matheus França, who has been linked with plenty of Premier League clubs and seems poised to join Crystal Palace.
In comparison with the previous three, Matheus França has been less stress-tested in the Flamengo first team -- in large part because the squad has such attacking depth that it is not easy to be selected for the major games. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder, then, is being signed on promise rather than achievements. The logic from the point of view of the recipient club is that they can pick him up for a fee far cheaper than if they wait until the player makes his mark in a smaller European league and take control of his development.
And in the case of França, there is a lot of development to do. He is strong on the ball with flashes of real talent. But he is still inexperienced. His decision-making leaves much be desired. This is one player to be filed as "work in progress -- early stages."
Incidentally, there is another 19-year-old midfielder in the Flamengo team who is managing to get a regular game. Left-footed Victor Hugo has made huge strides in the past few months, especially since Jorge Sampaoli took over as club coach. Sampaoli is enchanted with Victor Hugo, describing him already as more reality than promise. He is a less flashy operator than Franca, able to operate in a deeper central midfield role as well as being further forward. He is taking responsibility in crunch games, and if he is not yet on the radar of major European clubs, then he should be.
A midfielder who is certainly on the radar is Andre of Fluminense, who has enjoyed a wonderful past 18 months anchoring the free flowing side of coach Fernando Diniz. Not far off the World Cup squad, he has since made his senior international debut, and at the age of 22, he is surely in his final few months in Brazilian football.
Playing in such an attacking team has clearly developed Andre's game, highlighting his speed in recovery, obliging him to take defensive responsibility (often filling in at centre-back in course of the game) and sharpening his passing skills in a side that love to play out of the back. There will surely be offers in this window, though Fluminense will try to keep hold of them until the end of the year.
One position where Brazil has become a mass producer of talent in recent years is goalkeeper, and there are more calm, competent and athletic performers coming through. One is Bento of Athletico Paranaense, who have a solid recent track record of producing keepers. This is another case where the calendar of the South American season (February to early December) complicates a midyear deal. Benfica are interested, but Athletico would love to keep him for a few more months.
And a keeper who if anything is in even better form than Bento is Lucas Perri, in outstanding form for surprise runaway leaders Botafogo. Now 25, Perri spent 2019 with Crystal Palace without getting a game. The experience would seem to have done him good, though, because in match after match, he is coming up with remarkably elastic saves.
Meanwhile, a teenage teammate of Perri's has been attracting attention from Premier League clubs -- 19-year-old striker Matheus Nascimento has been linked with a move. He would certainly be one for the future. Nascimento has not been figuring in Botafogo's first team, and his lanky frame may have to fill out a bit before he is ready for the English game.
Much of this also applies to Sao Paulo's 19-year-old centre-back Lucas Berardo, who has emerged strongly in the past couple of months to be part of his team's impressive club form. Berardo's left-footed passing from the back is undoubtedly classy, but though he has been linked with a move to England his defending does not look quite oven ready for the Premier League.
With Edu as director of football, Arsenal have understandably been looking to Brazil -- and with Gabriel Martinelli they clearly hit the jackpot. They are currently being linked with Gremio attacking midfielder Bitello, who at 23 is something of a late developer, and perhaps flew under the radar a little longer because his club spent last year in the second division.
But Bitello has been a star in Gremio's return to the topflight -- and the acquisition of Luis Suarez has done him nothing but good. The veteran Uruguayan is operating on a quicker mental plane than most. But Bitello has dovetailed with him extremely well, leading Arsenal to believe that he can cope with the step up. He is quick and versatile, able to play wide or through the middle.
A Gremio teammate also attracting attention is 25-year-old winger Ferreira -- often referred to in the diminutive (Ferreirinha) because he is so small and slight. But he is exciting. Right-footed, he usually cuts in from the left, has evasive one-on-one skills and can score as well as create. Celtic, with their tradition of wing play, have reportedly shown an interest. Injuries have been a problem, though, which would make him something of a gamble -- but then again, that applies to any transfer, especially one taking a player across the Atlantic.