18. Vinicius Junior, Flamengo
The Under-17 South American Championship took place in March, and it had one star. Brazil lifted the trophy, winning seven of its nine games, and walking away as top scorer and best player was Vinicius Junior, a 16-year-old on Flamengo’s books who just made his first-team debut this past weekend. Vinicius scored seven goals from his starting position on the left side of a front three, and his dribbling at speed, strength on the ball, creativity when moving centrally and range of finishes, from lobs to instinctive toe-pokes, won over European scouts.
Three clubs have already reportedly met his €30 million release clause, but Spanish media have reported that Real Madrid might double that in a bid to secure the Brazilian as soon as he turns 18 in the summer of 2018. Real Madrid has missed out on Neymar and Gabriel Jesus in recent years and does not want to miss out again. While undoubtedly talented, plenty of others have starred in that tournament and not gone onto greatness. Vinicius has the talent to go all the way, but one wonders if dropping into Real Madrid at such an early age is the best route to the top.
What they're saying:
“Vinicius has everything to become a top-quality player, to move up to the senior Brazil squad and play for the biggest clubs around the world. He has a lot of technical qualities. He has remained balanced, and if he stays like that, he can reach the top.”
- Carlos Amadeu, Brazil Under-17 coach