Endrick is just the beginning! Brazil's golden generation of wonderkids are about to take over Europe

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The World Cup's most successful nation has not won the competition for over 20 years - but a group is emerging who have the talent to end that drought

When the NXGN 2023 finalists were revealed on Tuesday, there was one country that dominated the 50-strong list. Brazil had no fewer than eight players among the list of world football's top teenage talents born in 2004 or later, including NXGN Nine award-winner, Endrick.

Given some of the Brazilian talents who have graced the upper echelons of the annual list of wonderkids in recent years, such as Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, it is hard not to get excited about the prospect of a new golden generation emerging for the Selecao.

Of course, Brazilian generations are ultimately judged on whether or not they win the World Cup.

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Fans of the South American nation generally view two generations - the one fronted by Pele that won three global titles between 1958-70, and the team of Ronaldo, Cafu and - latterly - Ronaldinho, that reached three successive finals, winning twice - as the gold standard.

And while there hasn't been a Ballon d'Or winner from the country since Kaka in 2007, there is no doubt that Brazilian footballers are beginning to dominate the top of the European game once more. The recent Real Madrid-Liverpool tie in the Champions League, for example, featured a record-breaking six different Brazil internationals.

This year's NXGN suggests that number is only going to increase over the next decade, too.

  1. NXGN 2023's Brazilian ballers
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    NXGN 2023's Brazilian ballers

    The aforementioned Endrick is top of the pile when it comes to Brazilian wonderkids right now. The 16-year-old Palmeiras forward is regarded as the best talent to have emerged in the country since Neymar, and the battle to sign him among European clubs over the past year suggested as much.

    Real Madrid eventually beat the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea to Endrick, agreeing to a deal worth ÔéČ60 million to bring the teenager to Santiago Bernabeu, though he will not arrive until the summer of 2024.

    Others to have agreed moves to Europe include midfielder Andrey Santos, whom Chelsea paid an initial £11m to sign in January, and centre-back Kaiky, who was heavily linked with Barcelona before joining fellow Spanish side Almeria last summer.

    Right-back Vinicius Tobias and winger Savio, meanwhile, are currently on loan at Real Madrid and PSV, respectively, and have been getting used to European football in those clubs' reserve sides in the lower reaches of their domestic pyramids.

    Vitor Roque, the Athletico Paranaense striker who has been likened to Ronaldo, is likely to be the next to follow them across the Atlantic, with Barca again said to be at the front of the queue for the 18-year-old.

    Vitor Roque NXGN 2023

    Flamengo midfielder Matheus Franca, meanwhile, recently signed a new contract that includes a ÔéČ200m release clause after Newcastle had a bid for him rejected in January. Santos winger Angelo Gabriel could soon join Matheus at Flamengo, too, though it's widely felt that would just be a stepping-stone move before he eventually lands in Europe, too.

    The conveyor belt is unlikely to stop there, either, with Palmeiras duo Luis Guilherme and Estevao Willian - the latter of whom is still only 15 - already on the radars of the world's most prestigious clubs.

  2. Developing 'O Jogo Bonito'
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    Developing 'O Jogo Bonito'

    So what's so special about Brazilian coaching and youth development to create such a generation of players who are adept at the beautiful game, or 'O Jogo Bonito' as it's referred to in Brazil?

    "Football is a national passion in our country, and our children have the ball at their feet from an early age," Paulo Victor, the manager of Palmeiras' successful Under-20s team, tells NXGN.

    "Brazil's great secret lies in its passion, improvisation, daring and creativity. Also, the number of youth teams and competitions that we have and, currently, the quality of work in the youth categories that is being done throughout Brazil."

    Vasco da Gama's academy director, Carlos Brazil, adds: "Brazil has always had golden generations. The proof of that is that for a long time, it has been the biggest exporter of players in the world.

    "Training a great player involves a methodology that requires a systemic view and interdisciplinary work. There are now several professionals, from different areas, involved in the training of an athlete."

    Those coaches and academies are, though, still at something of an advantage compared to others.

  3. The beauty of a one-sport nation
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    The beauty of a one-sport nation

    Football might as well be the only sport in Brazil. Others have niche followings, but every Brazilian lives and breathes football to some extent. And since the country possesses the sixth-largest population on Earth, that's a lot of football-loving households.

    The five countries with larger populations - China, India, United States, Indonesia and Pakistan - are hardly footballing hotbeds, with only one (the U.S.) even having qualified for the 2022 World Cup.

    It's perhaps understandable, then, that Brazil is regarded as one of, if not the world's best footballing talent factory. The likes of the top European nations, as well as Argentina and Uruguay, might produce at a more impressive rate given their smaller populations, but that should not take away from what Brazil has been able to do in recent years in terms of elite talents.

    "The country, having such a large size and having football as the most popular sport, obviously gives birth to talents in great proportions," Carlos Brazil says. "These well-polished talents, though, become quality players with our training."

  4. The start of something special?
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    The start of something special?

    The proof, as always, will be in the pudding when it comes to whether Brazil's next generation will be a golden one, but the early signs are certainly promising.

    The U20s team, led by Andrey Santos and Vitor Roque, won the South American Championship at the start of 2023 despite a series of players being blocked from taking part by their clubs, and will head to this summer's U20 World Cup as one of the favourites.

    And yet even that might only be the tip of the iceberg, as Paulo Victor explains: "In recent years, we have followed a new generation of players who have taken up major roles in the biggest leagues in world football. But I believe that the best is yet to come in terms of quantity and quality, with the current Under-17 and Under-15 generations.

    "They have a significant amount of super talents who will add to the players who are playing a major role today, such as Vini Jr. , Rodrygo, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli."

    And so the almost-daily reports of a teenage Brazilian being on the transfer radar of at least one top European club is set to continue for a while yet. The odds are strong that a sixth World Cup will likely follow soon enough.