In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Flamengo’s 21-year-old right back Matheuzinho

The Libertadores group stage is reaching its climax and 2019 champions Flamengo have already set down a marker as one of the contenders for the trophy.

Most of the focus has revolved around established stars like Gabriel Barbosa, Giorgian de Arrascaeta and Bruno Henrique but a few youngsters have come to the fore, principally flying right back Matheuzinho.

Originally hailing from Londrina in the state of Parana, Matheuzinho came through the ranks of his hometown club, before making his debut with them in Serie B in 2018. It took just one year for him to catch the attention of Flamengo and he made a £200k transfer to the Rubro-negro in 2019.

Matheuzinho initially linked up with their U20s and promptly won the U20 Libertadores, alongside fellow academy graduate Joao Gomes. After a handful of first team appearances in 2020, he gained more protagonism in 2021 with 30 league appearances and two goals.

This year his performances have seen him jump ahead of Mauricio Isla and Rodinei in the pecking order and has been their first choice in the Libertadores, starring in their win against Sporting Cristal with a goal and assist.

Matheuzinho spots the trigger of the midfielder dropping in to receive the ball from the center-back and begins to motor up the right flank.
Having built up a head of steam, Matheuzinho’s fantastic pace takes him in behind the defense and he latches onto the through ball.
Matheuzinho’s run takes him into the box and he shows great composure to rifle the ball into the back of the net and definitively kill off the tie to secure the three points.

Name-checked by Dani Alves in an interview with Marca and chosen by L’Equipe as a future European star, what does make Matheuzinho such an up-and-coming talent?

Very much an attack-minded full-back in the traditional Brazilian mould, Matheuzinho possesses explosive acceleration and a searing pace to get up and down the right flank.

Almost the furthest player forward, here we see the extra width and attacking intent Matheuzinho gives from full-back.

It won’t be a surprise to learn that he started out as a winger and he hasn’t lost any of his sense of adventure and endeavor, buoyed by the extra cover of Flamengo’s three-man defensive line when in possession.

Averaging 2.07 dribbles and 1.99 progressive runs per 90, he has the stamina to cover the whole right-hand side and contribute both in attack and defense.

Physical traits aside, Matheuzinho also uses the ball well with 11.2 progressive passes per 90 and averages around an 85.5% pass accuracy.

Another of Matheuzinho’s strengths is his crossing ability. As well as being able to whip balls in with pace when driving forward, he also has the presence of mind to pick out intelligent pull backs.

Here we see Matheuzinho making an inverted run inside the winger, arriving from deep to take the ball, head towards the byline and instead of flashing a ball across the face of goal, smartly pulls it back into the space for Gabriel Barbosa.

While his propensity to bomb forward can leave space in behind, Matheuzinho’s defensive stats stack up quite favorably. Across his career, he has averaged 8.15 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 63.8%.

Matheuzinho spots the danger of the free man in the middle and just gets back in front of him to prevent a sure goal.

He doesn’t dive into tackles and does well to jockey opponents without overcommitting himself, while his excellent pace means he can make good recovery runs when caught out of position.

Whether it be a product of the formation Flamengo play or the fact they have a higher quality squad who tend to dominate possession, Matheuzinho is nevertheless a proactive defender who likes to push up and engage opponents higher up the pitch.

Matheuzinho pushing high up the field and setting up a promising attack for Flamengo.

As a result, he makes a high number of recoveries in the final third (1.19 per 90) and dangerous recoveries (0.56), allowing Flamengo to win possession closer to the opposition's goal.

Inevitably there a rough edges to polish and it would be interesting to see how Matheuzinho would handle playing in a team that has to defend more but his emergence is an exciting prospect for Brazilian football.

Despite their storied history in the position, there is a relative lack of depth in the full-back position in recent years for the national team, with Tite still searching for a long term replacement for Dani Alves.

It may be too early to say whether Matheuzinho can kick on and challenge for a spot in the Selecao but a good run in the Libertadores would do his chances no harm at all.

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