South America might not be able to compete with Europe in terms of finances and clubs at the very elite, but it will never stop producing world-class talent.
Brilliant players from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have lit up the European game for as long as we can remember, a tradition that continues today with the likes of Julian Alvarez, Vinicius Junior and Luis Diaz shining at some of the biggest clubs in the world.
And that production line shows no sign of slowing down. We’ve identified seven of the most promising young talents in South America destined to one day play at the very top.
Son of Real Madrid legend Fernando Redondo, 20-year-old Federico has quickly burst onto the scene with Argentinos Juniors.
The midfielder was born in Madrid but grew up in Buenos Aires and has represented Argentina at youth level – and he caught the eye at the Under-20 World Cup over the summer.
Redondo Junior has a playing style – a pausa, if you will – that’s eerily reminiscent of a young Sergio Busquets. Barcelona brought back Oriol Romeu as a stop-gap solution this summer, but you imagine the club’s scouts will be hard at work finding a long-term Busquets successor – they’d do worse than looking at Redondo.
Liverpool reportedly identified the 22-year-old Brazilian as one of the potential solutions in their great midfield rebuild in the summer.
But the rising star was going nowhere as long as his boyhood club Fluminense remained in the Copa Libertadores.
Andre’s faith and loyalty was rewarded in the end, with the Brazilian club making it past Argentinos Juniors, Olimpia and Internacional to book a blockbuster clash with Boca Juniors in the Maracana final next month.
Lifting the most prestigious trophy in South American club football would be a fitting way for Andre to wave goodbye.
He’s got over a hundred appearances under his belt and looks at the right age for a big European move in January – if Liverpool don’t make a bid to sign him, don’t be surprised if someone else does.
File next to Alexis Mac Allister in the ‘there’s some Scottish heritage there, surely?’, Argentinian ginger wizard Barco has long been identified as one to watch – The Guardian named him in their ‘Next Generation‘ series back in 2021, at which point he was barely out of youth football.
The technically gifted Boca Juniors left-back doesn’t have bags of experience – still just 26 senior appearances – but he’s already living up to his billing with a star showing in the Argentinian giants’ run to the Copa Libertadores final.
A move to Europa in 2024 appears a formality at this stage. Brighton have long been linked with a move for the 19-year-old, but recent reports suggest that Manchester City have seen enough to fast-track him straight to the top.
Barcelona announced the signing of the highly-rated Brazilian forward back in July.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll join up with Xavi’s squad in January or next summer, but it appears they’ve secured a seriously special talent. Roque has arguably been the brightest prospect in South American football in 2023.
The 18-year-old Athletico Paranaense forward has been wildly prolific in terms of goals and assists this year, but has recently suffered an injury setback that is expected to leave him sidelined for at least a couple of months.
Vitor Roque is the U-20 player with most goal contributions in the world in 2023. 🇧🇷🐯
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) September 27, 2023
Barcelona aren’t the only La Liga giants to act quickly to nab South America’s best young talent. In fact, Real Madrid are the trend-setters – Endrick signed with Los Blancos when he was just 16 years old, having followed in the footsteps of Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.
He burst onto the scene when he was just 15 and will arrive at the Bernabeu when he turns 18 next summer.
One of the most prestigiously talented players of his generation, it will be fascinating to see whether Endrick can reach his potential in the Spanish capital. He appears to have his head screwed on, which will serve him well.
“I just thank God because he is the one who is with me every day, every night,” Endrick recently told reporters.
“If I could, I would ask the press not to talk about it, but it is what we players experience. Life outside is crucifying. I will continue training and playing.”
A product of Independiente del Valle, the Ecuadorian club that famously nurtured Moises Caicedo, 16-year-old Kendry Paez is being talked up as their next big export.
Independiente are said to have rejected bids from Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United before accepting Chelsea’s offer – Todd Boehly’s Blues have cut out the middle man and gone straight to the source this time.
The midfielder is already a full Ecuador international. It will be very interesting to see how he develops in these key years before arriving at Stamford Bridge once he’s turned 18 in the summer of 2025.
Kendry Páez – pass & move, pass & move.
Pure Football. pic.twitter.com/zJ6PQOto1M
— The Next Wave (@_TheNextWave_) October 1, 2023
The Corinthians starlet only turned 18 last month, has just a few senior appearances under his belt, yet he’s already being linked with Chelsea and Barcelona and is being talked up as the future of Brazil’s midfield. Big talk.
Barcelona sporting director Deco is said to be a massive fan of the youngster and has identified him as the long-term answer to the club’s pivot question.
Deco also played a big role in the signing of Vitor Roque, so there may well be truth in those reports. Watch this space.