Estêvão Willian: The Newest Brazilian Starlet on the Rise

With Endrick on the cusp of joining Real Madrid, Palmeiras have a new prodigy on the rise who is set to become the next talent to step off the club’s production line: Estêvão Willian. The Brazil youth international’s eye-catching performances make him one of the most exciting young players in Brazilian football at the moment. So it’s no surprise that elite European clubs started showing interest in him.


Franca-born Estêvão began his football journey with Cruzeiro’s academy in the state of Minas Gerais. It was where he picked up the nickname, Messinho (which translates to “Little Messi”). Aged 10, he surpassed Neymar and Rodrygo to become the youngest-ever Brazilian player to sign with Nike, having recently renewed his contract with the outfitter until 2026.



Having just turned 14, the age at which he could sign his first contract, Estêvão was spotted by Palmeiras, who worked hard to ensure the youngster came into their football academy system. By the age of 15, he would already be accustomed to hoarding silverware, helping Verdão’s youth teams get a raft of trophies across different age groups. 


More recently, he had a big impact on the international stage with Brazil at the Under-17 World Cup which earned him first team debut in the last round of the 2023 Campeonato Brasileiro. Estêvão started the 2024 season with Palmeiras’ Under-20 and stood out during the team’s campaign in the Copinha (a traditional youth tournament in Brazilian football).


As a result, first team manager Abel Ferreira integrated Estêvão into his squad, at which point interest from foreign clubs in the youngster started to heat up. Estêvão has 19 first team appearances, including his Copa Libertadores debut in which he scored one of the goals in Palmeiras’ 3-1 win over Liverpool (UY). At 16 years, 11 months and 18 days old, with his goal against Liverpool, he became the third-youngest player ever to score for Palmeiras.


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Among all those interested, the club which won the race to sign Estêvão was Chelsea, who will pay north of €50 million (including add-ons) to have the talented young man in their ranks when he turns 18 in 2025. Will Estêvão live up to the hype? Only time will tell as he still has a long way to go in his development. But, the Blues, and football fans in general, have good reasons to be excited about the youngster.


Player Profile


Estêvão is a left-footed attacker who has predominantly played as a right-winger, with some game time as a number 10. He is confident and creative, capable of carrying the ball, dribbling through traffic and positioning himself to receive passes in order to drive the team forward.


When operating from the right, as a left-footer, he looks to cut inside and look for an opportunity to shoot. Estêvão has an impressive dribbling ability, which allows him to make solo runs to beat the defensive line. His first touch, allied to close control and ball manipulation, makes it difficult for his direct opponents to predict his next move. This makes him excel in 1v1 situations as well as gives him the momentary space to escape and run through the channels.



Estêvão’s engagement in link-up play is excellent. He likes to make quick one-twos with his teammates and does it showing natural flair. He also shows good spatial awareness, occupying the space he helps create by linking up as well as positioning himself between defenders and lines to receive the ball.


His positioning stretches the opposing back line in receiving through-balls or switches of play and aiming to isolate the full-back in order to attack his opponent. He shows intelligence in deciding when to release the ball after receiving wide or advancing via a dribble, although his passing range doesn’t particularly stand out. He usually opts for easy and secure passes, preferring short passes to mid or long-range ones.


On the other hand, Estêvão’s willingness to shoot is supported by a good shooting technique together with a secret weapon: he is a good set-piece taker. He is comfortable taking penalties and free-kicks, no matter the distance. When shooting, either from set-pieces or open play, he combines strength and precision well. It feels like he is always aiming for the perfect-placed shot, and when he gets it right, it’s spectacular.


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His agility, shown in an ability to work his body balance, allows him to create separation and to evade pressure under different scenarios. A strong dribbler, he does well beating his markers. The way he uses his shoulder drops and the way he carries the ball often encourages his direct opponent to lunge for possession.


The Brazilian teenager’s acceleration and facility to change his body orientation, coupled with the drop of the shoulder, enables him to evade any such opposition, which makes him quite capable of working past his direct opponent. There is no doubt he is an exciting player, and it would seem he has an exciting future, too.


Because of that, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he is a player still early in his development. The 17-year-old is coming into his own, but has played relatively little for the first team at a high level at this moment in time. For one, it’s clear he needs to improve his physical development to endure pro football, especially if he is set to compete at the highest level in a Premier League club.



Due to his age, part of this physical improvement will still come naturally. However, undertaking specific work would still be important as he will need to understand the demands that his body will have to meet at this new stage in his career. On the other hand, on the pitch, his efficiency in defensive duels and his aerial ability are aspects that show the need for improvement.


Estêvão already shows a big willingness to close down opponents and help in the defensive phase. The improvement, in this sense, is more related to better selection of duels as well as working on the timing of tackles and jumps to compete for the ball.


What Does the Future Hold?


Unlike most football players his age, Estêvão knows what his next step will be, and it won’t be just any step, as he will be joining Chelsea as soon as he turns 18 years old. Taking the Premier League club at the present moment, Estêvão would arrive facing a lot of competition for a spot on the right-wing, which highlights the importance of this next year of his development to his career.


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A lot can happen in a year, which makes any attempts to guess what will happen to the youngster when he joins the Blues difficult. One thing is for sure though: Chelsea’s interest and decision to invest in him are more than justified by what he has been showing since his youth days. It’s hard not to see its potential although this leads to a lot of expectations and speculations, which are unreal at times. 


This is not a question with regard to Estêvão’s potential. He seems on the way to establishing himself as a top footballer. But, there’s still a long way to go for this possible future to turn into reality and patience, from all sides, is needed to consolidate this path.


The main objective of this analysis was to present Estêvão Willian, taking into account the moment his career is at. Thus, helping Chelsea and football fans in general to better understand the player’s profile so that they not only see what he can bring to the table but also so that they can form their own opinions about the youngster.


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There’s clearly a lot to be excited about. However, it’s important to keep both feet on the ground. Sit back and enjoy the rise of Estêvão.


By: Nathalia Tavares / @tavaresnthl

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alexandre Schneider / Getty Images