Who is Estevao Willian, the Messi xerox considered to be the best footballer in Brazil since Neymar? | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Who is Estevao Willian, the Messi xerox considered to be the best footballer in Brazil since Neymar?

Jun 24, 2024 06:57 PM IST

Willian joined Palmeiras’ youth academy in 2021. In 2017, the Sau Paulo-based club had tried to have him on board but Cruzeiro beat them to his signature

Ever heard of Estevao Willian? Don’t worry if you have not. You sure are going to hear a lot about him in the coming months. The 17-year-old Brazilian has joined Premier League side Chelsea from Palmeiras for a reported initial fee of $37 million plus performance related add-ons. For his age, he is simply extraordinary.

Estevao Willian of Brazil's Palmeiras controls the ball during a Copa Libertadores Group F soccer match against Argentina's San Lorenzo(AP)
Estevao Willian of Brazil's Palmeiras controls the ball during a Copa Libertadores Group F soccer match against Argentina's San Lorenzo(AP)

It was not a cakewalk for the Blues though. There were many high-profile suitors in the ring. The biggest of them was the mightiest club in England at present, yes, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. German giants Bayern Munich and Kylian Mbappe’s former club, Paris St-Germain, were in pursuit too. To all intents and purposes, the Blues have done the unthinkable with his signing.

Willian is called the Brazilian Messi and goes by the nickname “Messinho.” Why? Because like the great Argentine, Willian can perform a whole lot of things at full tilt. That’s an extraordinary quality to have. Needless to say, the winger is also left-footed. Be that as it may, he doesn't want to be called Messinho.

There are many in Brazil who consider Willian the best since Neymar. "Estevao is the best player to have emerged from Brazilian football since Neymar. You watch him and you fall in love," Joao Paulo Sampaio, the head of the academy at Palmeiras, told BBC Sport.

Willian joined Palmeiras’ youth academy in 2021. In 2017, when Willian first started making waves as an exceptionally gifted player, the Sau Paulo-based club had tried to have him on board but Belo Horizonte-based Cruzeiro beat them to his signature, having reportedly paid 10 times the amount they were offering.

Shortly after, Willian became the youngest Brazilian footballer to sign a contract with sports apparel and footwear giant Nike. Neymar and Rodrygo had their Nike contracts at the age of 13 and 11 respectively. There you go!

Endrick, who is part of Brazil's Copa America squad and going to join Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid ahead of the upcoming season, and Luis Guilherme, who will join West Ham United, are the other two teen Brazilians with the Palmeiras connection that fans have high expectations of. Can Willian outdo them in the long run? Probably yes!

Last month, Abel Ferreira, Palmeiras coach, following his team’s win fuelled by a Willian goal in the Brazilian Cup, said: "This player is different from everything I've ever seen.”

Last year during the Under-17 World Cup Spanish newspaper AS talking about Willian wrote: “Brazil have a new genius.”

These are no ordinary accolades.

While Willian has massive potential, there are a few areas which need to be ticked before he can start his journey to greatness. Sampaio pinpoints them. "He already impresses with his technique but, like Neymar at this same point in his career, he has not yet matured physically and is not as strong as Endrick, so he could still develop a lot. That's what amazes everyone and makes them think that he will reach a much higher level," he said.

Defenders in the Premier League are undoubtedly very aggressive. Seems like Willian and his guiding forces have made the right call. If that’s what is his weakness at present, then there can’t be a better place than England to prepare him. He will be in waters infested with sharks and such a challenge will sure make a man out of him. He will have to get stronger to deal with that kind of aggression all around. There is no other option.

The last couple of years have not been satisfactory for the five-time Premier League champions. They finished 12th in 2022-23 and sixth in the season gone by, and they have now brought over another new manager in Enzo Maresca, sixth managerial appointment in five years.

If truth be told, the London-based club desperately need some kind of spark to get them going and help them return to where they belonged not long ago. Hopefully, Willian will provide that. Chelsea fans have not been this expectant in recent years.

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