David Kaua: Palmeiras' latest teenage talent with Champions League dreams

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David Kaua - NXGN
The 18-year-old recently shone at the CEE Cup in Prague, and is keen to follow in the footsteps of his footballing icon, Lionel Messi

Vision, organisation, planning and above all the incredible ability to find and train world-class talent, Palmeiras continue to reap the rewards of excellent work on and off the pitch at academy level. The Verdao are producing one success after another thanks to their ability to find diamonds that have grown and blossomed in Sao Paulo.

Some have gone on to lock down roles in the club's first team, while others have said or are planning to say goodbye, leaving their homeland to make their European dream come true while netting Palmeiras millions; the natural consequence and fruits of a job done in a careful and smart way.

That was again on show at the 2023 CEE Cup, as the Verdao defended the crown they won in 2022 at the prestigious Under-19s tournament that is held in Prague on an annual basis. The leader of the team this time around was attacking midfielder David Kaua, who was named the NXGN Player of the Tournament.

Kaua lit up all stages from the tournament, from his Olimpico goal direct from a corner in Palmeiras' opening group game against West Ham, all the way through to his sparkling display in the 2-1 final win over Slavia Prague.

But what makes the 18-year-old so special? Let NXGN explain...

  1. Where it began

    Born in Bandeirantes, in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, Kaua began his formal footballing education at the age of 11 when he joined the youth team Laranja Mecanica. From there, he moved on to Uniao Bandeirantes and Gremio Ourinhos, before moving to Resende, a club in Rio de Janeiro, at the age of 15.

    It was there that Palmeiras discovered him and invited Kaua to join their academy as the club's scouts were taken by his talent. Kaua credits the club's academy director, Richard Pabon, for the help he has given him since arriving in Sao Paulo, as well as the influence his father has had on his footballing career.

    "Ever since I was a child, I have strongly believed that certain people are in our lives for a reason," Kaua tells NXGN. "I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had people like Richard Pabon and, most importantly, my father by my side. They have always believed in me and, together with divine guidance, have been the foundation of my career."

  2. Copinha glory

    At the beginning of every calendar year, attention among Brazil's fanatical football supporters turns to the Copinha, the annual youth tournament that pits every Under-19s side in the country against one another, with academies believing that victory in the competition is a crowning moment for their academies.

    In 2022, an Endrick-led Palmeiras side were victorious, meaning the pressure was on Kaua and his team-mates to replicate that success 12 months later. Needless to say, they stepped up, sealing the title with a 2-1 win over America-MG in the final.

    "Participating in the Copinha has always been a personal goal of mine," Kaua explains. "I vividly remember watching the tournament every year and picturing myself on the pitch, competing at the highest level. This year that dream has turned into reality. I had the privilege not only of playing the Copinha, but also of having my father close to me in the stadium, watching me live rather than on TV. That moment embodied years of hard work, sacrifice and unwavering support, making it an incredibly emotional and cherished achievement."

    Following that success, Kaua's thoughts quickly switched to what the future may hold. Many players who have starred in the Copinha have gone onto enjoy professional careers, and the teenager is hopeful of following in their footsteps.

    "One of the most important achievements so far is playing for a prestigious team like Palmeiras," he says. "It was not only my dream, but also my family's. Getting to the first team and wearing the Palmeiras jersey would be a source of immense pride and satisfaction for all of us.

    “Looking ahead, I aspire to further establish myself as an integral part of Palmeiras. I want to contribute not only on the pitch, but also in a wider context, to the successes of the club. Furthermore, I aim to achieve more and more important goals in my football career. Representing my country's national team is a dream I hold dear, and I am committed to working tirelessly to achieve this."

  3. A No.10 & set-piece specialist

    Free to act between the lines and create numerical superiority thanks to his dribbling ability and a very skilled left foot, Kaua played the role of central attacking midfielder in Palmeiras' 4-2-3-1 system as they sealed the CEE Cup.

    The fulcrum of attack, Kaua has a clear idea on what his best position is and how he can then show off his enormous qualities, saying: "I feel more comfortable when I play as No.8 or No.10. These positions allow me to show my strengths in creating chances and dictating our attacking tempo.

    "I like to be on the ball, orchestrate moves and shoot on goal. As an attacking midfielder, my approach revolves around a mix of vision, creativity and technical quality. I am proud to have a deep connection with my team-mates on the pitch, which allows me to know where they are and find them."

    As well as his prowess in open play, Kaua has also been noted for his ability from dead-ball situations, and has become something of a free-kick and corner specialist, as illustrated by his Olimpico against West Ham.

    "Free-kicks and corners? I take them on with the utmost dedication," he says. I believe these situations offer valuable opportunities to score important goals. I spend a lot of time practicing free kicks to refine my technique and accuracy in execution. The corner kick goal at the CEE Cup was a memorable moment, a testament to the hours of training I have invested."

  4. Areas to improve

    There is no shortage of flair and imagination to Kaua's game, as and his match-winning ability is there in abundance too. For him to make the definitive leap in quality, though, he now has to work on both his physicality and his consistency of performances, both within matches and for a prolonged period of time.

    That consistency would allow him to constantly be a determining factor and lead his team from the front, just as he did during the CEE Cup.

  5. Playing alongside Endrick - but idolising Messi
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    Playing alongside Endrick - but idolising Messi

    Palmeiras' is a club that is flooded with young talent at present. Kaua's predecessor as NXGN Player of the Tourmament, Thalys, is being tipped for great things, while Luis Guilherme and Estevao Willian have both been linked with top European clubs. The jewel in the crown, however, is Endrick; the 17-year-old striker who has already agreed to join Real Madrid in a deal worth up to €72 million (£61.5m/$78.5m).

    “I got to admire Endrick up close,” Kaua says. "I had the opportunity to play alongside him last year, and closely following his journey from the youth academy to the first team has fuelled my ambitions to follow a similar path in my career."

    Endrick is not the only homegrown Palmeiras star Kaua has learned from, though, adding: "Palmeiras continues to produce extraordinary talent. Among them, I have drawn inspiration from players like Danilo and Gabriel Menino, who have had a profound impact on me, especially as I play in the same position as them. Their great qualities have made them the reference points for the midfield, not only in Palmeiras but also in the entire Brazilian football movement."

    Kaua's ultimate footballing idol, however, is not one of his Brazilian compatriots. Quite the opposite in fact: an Argentinian.

    "I have always been fascinated by Lionel Messi," he explains. "His ability to break through defences, his flawless vision on the pitch and his mastery of free-kicks with that magical left foot – it's no wonder he's my idol! As a child, I would spend hours watching videos of Messi before finding myself emulating his moves on the pitch.

    "One aspect of Messi that has always fascinated me is his ability to take free-kicks. His ability to bend and curve the ball with precision is nothing short of mesmerising. I have spent more hours than I can count on the training field trying to hone my technique and trying to replicate those incredible free-kicks that Messi effortlessly converts into goals.

    “What really impresses me about Messi is his incredible dedication and work ethic. It's a testament to the fact that, while talent can take you far, it's the relentless pursuit of improvement that makes all the difference. Messi's humility, his sportsmanship and his deep love for football are qualities I deeply admire and try to emulate in my journey.

    "Messi's dream of winning an Olympic gold medal and eventually capturing a World Cup for his country is something that connects me deeply with him. As a player, representing my nation on the biggest stages and trying to win for my nation is a dream that fuels my every sacrifice. I train tirelessly, pushing myself beyond my limits and channelling the spirit of Messi's relentless pursuit of excellence."

  6. Champions League dreams

    Given the way he speaks of his icon, it is perhaps unsurprising that Kaua has lofty ambitions himself, and he is keen to get going in trying to achieve them.

    "My aim is to leave a lasting legacy in the world of football, one that reflects not only my personal achievements but also the efforts of those who have supported me," he admits.

    "First of all, I want to get into the first team at Palmeiras. Then there are two main goals I want to achieve, and they push me forward day after day. The first is to play in the Champions League, the dream of competing against the best clubs in all of Europe. However, my ambitions go far beyond club competitions: the pinnacle of my dreams is to lift the World Cup, representing my country on the world stage."

    Clear ideas, spirit of sacrifice and talent: the right ingredients for a career that promises to be bright and reach the very top.