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 19-year old attacking midfielder, Lazaro.

Flamengo secured back-to-back Brasileirao titles for the first time since 1983 after a dramatic finale to the season, putting the icing on what has been a remarkable couple of years for the Rubro-Negro.

On the pitch, Flamengo can seemingly do no wrong but this has gone hand in hand with a successful period of developing and selling young talents. Academy stars Vinicius Junior, Lucas Paqueta and Reinier have all generated huge profits, while they have received decent sums for Leo Duarte, Jorge and Jean Lucas too.

So who is the next bright young thing off the production line?

There are high hopes for 19-year-old prospect Lazaro. At the club since the age of 8 and a teammate of Reinier in Flamengo’s youth ranks, Lazaro rose to prominence after a phenomenal 2019.

Having been the top scorer and best player as Flamengo won the Brazilian U17 Championship, Lazaro would go on to be Brazil’s hero as they won their 4th U17 World Cup title. He came off the bench to score crucial late winners against France in the semi-final and then in injury time in the final against Mexico.

Lazaro then capped off 2019 with yet another title, this time helping Flamengo to the U20 Brasileirao title with 5 goals in 16 games.

Last year, he began to train with the first team under Jorge Jesus and made his senior league debut against Palmeiras in September, while also making appearances in the Copa do Brasil and Libertadores.

Now Lazaro faces the formidable task of breaking into Flamengo’s star-studded and all-conquering first team but made a good start with an assist on his first start in the Carioca State Championships against Nova Iguacu.

Typically, Lazaro operates as an inverted left-sided attacking midfielder, as demonstrated by his ball progression above, but has the versatility to play more centrally as a playmaker or even as a support striker – a role we saw him thrive in at the youth level.

His movement and intelligence allow him to operate in a variety of positions and he loves to drift in off the flank into pockets of space in-between the lines and in the half-spaces. What’s more, Lazaro times his runs into the box well, able to ghost into the area and pick up dangerous goal-scoring positions.

As his time at the youth level has proven, Lazaro is a player who can contribute with goals too. A very clean striker of the ball, Lazaro averages 2.62 shots per game and has an xG of 0.33. His crucial strikes in big games demonstrate his composure in high-pressure moments.

Comfortable on the ball, Lazaro uses the ball well and boasts a solid 80.9% pass accuracy. So far in the Carioca State Championships, he has averaged 4.59 progressive passes and 1.72 deep completions per 90, while his average of 4.01 shot assists is currently the best in the tournament.

His range of passing is also good, often opting to switch the play with raking cross-field balls, while he also has the creativity and vision to unlock defenses.

At 1.81m, Lazaro is not your typical diminutive Brazilian attacker and can compete aerially. His 5.16 aerial duels per 90 with a 66.67% success rate ranks him in the top 10 in the Carioca State Championship.

Though there is still some work that can be done on his strength and his decision-making, this should develop with time and experience, as should his tracking back and man-marking.

Though not a prolific dribbler (3.95 per 90), Lazaro tends to glide past players rather than rely on pace and acceleration. One of his best qualities is his ability to draw in opponents and occupy their attention to free up space for his teammates.

Lazaro now finds himself at an interesting crossroads early on in his career. Given how stacked Flamengo are with some of the continent’s top talents and their demanding fan base, making the step up to senior football has arguably never been tougher for a Mengão youth product.

This could represent a great opportunity for a club looking to acquire a potentially elite level player before he has established himself and has added millions to his price tag.

With the Brexit situation meaning British clubs are pivoting more towards the South American market, a forward-thinking Championship club might be the ideal destination to offer first team football and the chance to adapt to the rigors of European football. Lazaro’s ability to add extra quality and his high re-sale value would no doubt be attractive to a number of teams.

Whether he sticks or twists, 2021 looks set to be a big year for Lázaro.

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