With the season set to come to an end this weekend, Brasil Global Tour takes a closer look at some of the players who have emerged as potential superstars
The domestic Brazilian football calendar comes to a belated end this weekend as the final round of fixtures will be played out one week late due to the tragic events of the Chapecoense air disaster.
It will be an emotional end to a long and gruelling season that has already tied up most of its business, with Palmeiras having claimed the league title, Flamengo, Santos and Atletico Mineiro securing Copa Libertadores football and America MG, Santa Cruz and Figueirense condemned to relegation.
There are still two matters yet to be decided, however, with Corinthians Botafogo and Atletico PR fighting it out for two Libertadores qualifying slots, and Internacional hoping a final-day victory can save themselves from the drop.
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It’s been a season of huge highs and unprecedented lows for the Brasileirao, and once again a year that has seen a number of players step forward into the limelight.
Below, Brasil Global Tour takes a closer look at 10 players who have emerged as potential stars this season.
WILLIAM POTTKER (PONTE PRETA)
The 22-year-old striker sits joint-second in the list of Brasileirao 2016’s top scorers, just one goal away from first-placed Fred. The young forward who came through the ranks at Figueirense and was nicknamed the ‘Majestic Emperor’ for his resemblance to former Brazil international Adriano, has his career back on track after a series of loan spells blighted the early years of his caeer.
Strong physically, quick and athletic, he likes to operate from wide positions, cutting inside to show off his deadly finishing and has been one of the revelations of the season at the less-fanced Ponte Preta, who sit tenth in the table and have secured Copa Sudamericana qualification. Corinthians, Botafogo and Santos have been linked with the nomadic youngster who looks to be on his way next year.
Another 22-year-old forward, Sassa has found his feet at Botafogo this season. The striker has notched 12 goals to make himself a solid fan favourite with the Fogao. The sleeping giant of Rio football were promoted back to the top flight last term and were tipped to flirt with relegation this season, but Jair Ventura’s side have enjoyed a fine which could end in Libertadores qualification.
Sassa has hit the same number of goals this season as Gabriel Jesus and has similar attributes to Pottker. His fine form earned him a endorsement from club idol Tulio Maravilha and the some interested glances from a number of clubs in Europe and beyond.
KENO (SANTA CRUZ)
Santa Cruz haven’t had much to shout about this season, with the giant of Brazil’s Nordeste region having managed just eight victories in a campaign that left them suffering early relegation, but 27-year-old forward Keno has certainly impressed.
The journeyman forward proved the perfect foil to veteran Grafite up front – between them the duo hit more than half of the club’s 45 goals this season, a total far higher than all of those around them in the relegation zone. Keno’s pace has remained, but gone has his wastefulness in front of goal. Having found his shooting boots, he’s now being tipped with a move to champions Palmeiras.
VITOR BUENO (SANTOS)
For a club that has veteran Brazil international Ricardo and Colombian Jonathan Copete, that Vitor Bueno stands as Santos’ top scorer speaks volumes of his contribution this season. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has enjoyed the standout campaign of his young career to inspire Santos a title challenge that has ended with comfortable Libertadores qualification.
An inventive dribbler with a keen eye for a pass, he has also contributed five assists this season, eclipsing playmaker Lucas Lima as the team’s creative hub.
TCHE TCHE (PALMEIRAS)
While Gabriel Jesus received all the plaudits for champions Palmeiras this season, Tche Tche can claim to have starred right alongside him. The 24-year-old’s consistency saw him start 36 of the club’s 37 matches so far, 30 of which saw him complete a full 90 minutes.
The sheriff of Cuca’s midfield, he provided the base from which Palmeiras claimed their first league title in more than two decades as an on-field leader of the side, his excellent positioning providing his side with key interceptions at key moments of historic season for the club.
GUSTAVO SCARPA (FLUMINENSE)
With the departure of leading scorer and all-round leader Fred, Gustavo Scarpa assumed the role of protagonist for Fluminense this season. A classic, cultured midfielder of huge natural talent, nobody has bettered his return of 10 assists going into the final day of the season.
He’s also chipped in with eight goals of his own, leaving him Flu’s second-highest scorer behind Cicero. He narrowly missed out on a place at the Rio Olympics this year but looks set to represent his country sooner or later.
FELIPE VIZEU (FLAMENGO)
Felipe Vizeu was promoted to the first team this year and did not disappoint, with some Fla fans insisting he is already performing better than Peru international Paolo Guerrero and Brazil international Leandro Damiao, who are both ahead of him in the pecking order.
Big, strong and a serious threat in the air, the 19-year-old has proved this season that he is ready to battle with the big boys and, likely to secure more first team opportunities next term, 2016 has seen him emerge as a potential star for the Rio giants.
One name stood out more than most in Internacional’s desperate struggle against the drop. Vitinho has become a vital cog in a team that could still mathematically go down for the first time if results go against them in the final round.
The 23-year-old, whose contract belongs to CSKA Moscow, is Inter’s top scorer, and no matter what happens at the weekend he will no have no shortage of suitors willing to snap him up at the end of the season.
GIORGIAN DE ARRASCAETA (CRUZEIRO)
Cruzeiro are another club who have had little to celebrate this season, but the joy provided by playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta will have offered some consolation. A classic No. 10, the 22-year-old arrived from Defensor Sporting last term and, having settled, this was a breakout year for the Uruguayan international.
Only Dudu and Gustavo Scarpa have bettered his nine assists this term and the 22-year-old has also created two chances per-game for his colleagues. With eight strikes, he also his team’s leading scorer.
The 20-year-old has made the left-back position his own at one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and is already attracting major interest from abroad, including Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. He announced himself to the the country by relegating Colombia international Pablo Armero to the bench, and this year has performed like a veteran.
He was another to narrowly miss out on a place in the Olympic team earlier this year but, having made 31 starts this season, the youngster may soon be looking to the senior squad under new coach Tite.