RJ - Rio de Janeiro - 04/19/2022 - 2022 BRAZILIAN CUP, FLUMINENSE X VILA NOVA-GO - Andre Fluminense player during a match against Vila Nova-GO at Maracana stadium for the Copa do Brasil 2022 championship.

Liverpool’s next Brazilian dreamboat is the perfect blend of skill, Samba & sh*thouse

The 2023 Copa Liberatordes final was a football hipster’s wet dream, with two South American giants trading both physical and metaphorical blows in a raucous Maracana atmosphere that was a throwback to a less commercialised era.

In the build-up to the game, Boca Juniors supporters camped out on Copacabana beach and told eager journalists stories of how they’d sold prized possessions to cross the border into Brazil to watch the final.

But the victors of a frenzied final were the team that plays its home matches at the Maracana. Fluminense were desperate to win their first-ever continental title and triumphed thanks to John Kennedy’s extra-time howitzer – a goal so good that it was worth getting sent off for.

Liverpool supporters, those who’d bought obscure lager and gourmet snacks for some alternative Saturday night viewing, were desperate to get a glimpse of Andre, the 22-year-old Fluminese midfielder who’s been heavily linked with a move to England.

They weren’t disappointed. Andre was superb in the midfield engine room, driving his team forward and winning a mind-boggling amount of tackles to dishearten his opponents.

One dribble, that began in the nether zone around his own corner flag, was infused with the careful beauty of watching a man navigating a minefield in ballet shoes.

Andre skipped around opponents as if they were invisible and irrelevant, revving through the gears like a Formula One vehicle and releasing an inch-perfect pass into a team-mate’s path.

And, amazingly, his concentration was so high that he failed to be diverted by the arresting sight of two opponents having an improvised ruck in the middle of the park. God, we love South American football.

“I follow the Premier League a lot,” Andre said when asked by The Guardian about his dream for the future. “It’s a very competitive league that demands a lot from players.

He’s certainly come from humble beginnings. Born in Ibirataia, a rural village of 2,000 people in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil, he had to travel more than 200 miles for a trial at Bahia.

“I didn’t know who would take me there because Salvador was six hours away and my family didn’t have the means,” he said. “A friend of my father’s offered me his house to take the three trials.

“It was three days: a Tuesday, a Thursday and the following Tuesday. In the end, I did well on the first day and they put me on the team on the second day – as a centre-forward, by the way.”

He was scouted by Fluminense in 2013 and moved to Rio de Janeiro at the age of 12. His father was working on his cocoa farm in Bahia and his mother was caring for his brother, so he would have to stay with a family friend. “I spent about four years without my parents and it was the most difficult time,” recalls Andre.

“My father always supported me as much as possible, but he has his own farm and works with his cocoa. He doesn’t like coming here to Rio de Janeiro – he comes, stays for a month and then gets anxious to go back home to what he loves.

“Now, thank God, things have stabilised and he comes more often. Being alone, away from my parents, helped me mature a lot. I try to bring that to the field – I try to be as calm as possible and play in the greatest tranquility possible.”

With a historic first Copa Liberatordes in the trophy cabinet, Fluminese will be braced for more bids for their prized midfield asset in January.

Months after making his debut for Brazil, Andre delivered a midfield masterclass in the biggest game of his career and looks a perfect blend of skill and sh*thouse. We need him in the Premier League.

By Michael Lee

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