Endrick: The Brazilian Sensation Ready To Conquer Europe

Ever since Real Madrid lost out on signing Neymar Junior in the summer of 2013, Florentino Perez developed an obsession. Given Perez’s lofty ambitions to keep Los Blancos as the biggest powerhouse in the world, perhaps it was the pride from the rejection that hurt Perez the most. After all, Neymar’s contract to sign with Real Madrid was offered on a plate to him when he was ready to leave Santos. According to Neymar’s former agent Wagner Ribeiro, it was the persuasion of Lionel Messi that convinced the Neymar camp to sign with Barcelona for his prime years instead.


It was the one that got away, but Perez was determined not to let any more South American gems slip away from his clutches. Would his alpha personality really allow that to happen? A relatively unknown man called Juni Calafat was recruited the following year to become Head of Recruitment in South America for Real Madrid, and it worked out fairly well for them.


Calafat and his team would go on to discover Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Vinícius Junior to compensate for their rejection in 2013. Vinícius and Rodrygo cost €45 million each, whilst Valverde cost €5million. According to Transfermarkt values, if Madrid were to sell the trio in today’s market, they would at least make an instantaneous profit of €205 million.



These days, Calafat is a Chief Scout at Madrid having paid his dues. The hard work going into scouting a trio like the above has to be characterised by some element of madness and obsession with the beautiful game. For that reason, it’s quite easy to see why Florentino and Juni would get on so well. But the hard work never stops, and the next fenomeno who signed for Madrid in 2022 was a 16-year-old by the name of Endrick Felipe Moreira de Sousa… otherwise better known as Endrick.


The fee was stated to equate to around €60 million, which was an outrageous sum to pay for a 16-year-old at the time. Endrick will join Madrid as soon as he turns 18 in July later this year, but the long wait has meant that those at Los Blancos have been able to sleep well and carefully watch the wonderkid develop at rapid speeds in Brazil for Palmeiras. 


Playing Style


Even at such a young age age, Endrick is a manager’s dream player. The Brazilian is interchangeable across a front line, capable of playing across either wing, as a central striker or even behind the striker. His versatility is a key selling point and will have played a heavy part in Madrid’s hot pursuit of him. Some of the attributes that allow him to play across several positions are an impressive level of creating space with close ball control, dropping to receive the ball and drifting wide to expand the play. 


A distinct evolution in Endrick’s development is where he has been mastering different elements of the pitch. As the contrast in heat-maps show, his previous season as a 16-year-old shows a stark difference in the way he has commanded the pitch in Brazilian football during 2023. Endrick has mainly operated in zones 11 and 12 (in between the half-space and right channel) – which eliminates all theories that he is merely just a deadly finisher or a poacher, but rather someone who collects the ball from deep and seeps through different zones to terrorise opposition players.



At such a raw age, there are drawbacks in his game but with years ahead of him, there are plentiful opportunities to fine-tune these aspects of his game. One of which is his over-eagerness to do everything on his own. Whilst it may appear as flamboyant to do this in Serie A, it won’t take long before dependency on the team is engrained in him by Carlo Ancelotti and his peers. A limited tactical brain at such a young age is also expected, and moving to La Liga at 18 will aid the development of how he sees the game through the European lens.


Conquering Brazil


In the 2023 season, Endrick played a hefty amount of games for the first time in his career (30+) – yet took to it like water off a duck’s back. His expected xG over the course of the campaign was at 8.30, yet he exceeded that with 11 goals from 50 shots. 8 of those goals came from the six-yard box, but 3 were long-range. The diversity in producing the unpredictable is a unique trait that is often drilled out of young footballers in the modern game, so it is refreshing to see it within a hungry striker.



The pool of footballers in the modern game who thrive off high stakes is already small but add the filter of young footballers who enjoy that and there aren’t many at all. Endrick is a certain name on that list. 


The recently concluded Serie A season could be written into a novel, given how many thrilling stories were produced. From Santos’s relegation to Botafogo’s epic collapse, a significant game was played in November between Palmeiras and Botafogo. Abel Ferreira’s side were 3-0 down at halftime, but Endrick clawed his team back with a quick-fire brace – consequently leading to a 4-3 win that further psychologically broke Botafogo’s mental state. One month later, Palmeiras were crowned champions for the 12th time on the final day and final game of Endrick’s stay in Brazil.


“I’m a player who shows up at times when it’s difficult. I like games like this.” Those were chilling words after the game from an ice-cool teenager.


Palmeiras mainly operated in a 3-4-1-2 once Endrick was engrained into the team by autumn. Before (or in games he was not starting), the team would work within a 1 striker system. A two-striker system was often deployed when the teenager played and much of the play began to be built around him.



This is particularly interesting for the summer ahead, where Carlo Ancelotti is expected to suffer from managerial headaches trying to fit all of his Galacticos in. Joselu has been the stop-gap for Endrick, but the two-striker system has been used since Karim Benzema’s departure. 4-3-1-2 has been the recent go-to, utilising the best version of Jude Bellingham in a more advanced role. With Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, Valverde, Bellingham and Endrick all to fit in, Don Carlo may opt to revert back to a more traditional 4-3-3 that has brought much success for Los Blancos.


What Does the Future Hold?


This time around, Real Madrid were able to get one over on FC Barcelona, who also tried to sign Endrick last winter. Instead, Xavi’s side secured the service of Vitor Roque last summer who has recently joined the club. Roque does get a head start on his La Liga career, but if all goes well, this could be a La Liga-based rivalry that sets the precedent for the next 15 years in the post-apocalyptic era after Ronaldo and Messi.


Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe have arrived. Endrick and Vitor Roque are ready. It’s almost time to sit back and enjoy.


By: Abdullah Mamaniyat / @mxmnyt

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ricardo Moreira / Getty Images