We welcome Gordon Fleetwood to The False Nine,with his article being the second in the Rough Diamonds series(You can read the first here)
The famed youth academy of Santos has been the breeding ground for some great stars.Pagão, Coutinho, Pelé, Diego, and Robinho–among others–all spent their formative years being molded within the club’s famous walls in the past.Only Ajax and more recently La Masia of Barcelona can claim to be worthy rivals in developing world class footballers.In recent times, the emergence of Paulo Henrique Ganso, and Neymar has continued this proud tradition. Soon, another player will walk this well trodden path. This newest revelation is a playmaker by the name of Felipe Anderson
Felipe was born into a lower middle class family in Brazil’s capital, Brasília, on the 15th of April, 1993. His first steps as a footballer took place there before he was spotted by Coritiba. A move to the southern club followed as he became a part of their youth scheme. It wasn’t long before the talented child caught the attention of Santos’ scouts who whisked him off to São Paulo. Now at one of the best youth setups in the country, Felipe Anderson developed well as he played alongside a now familiar name in the form of Neymar. The two formed a great partnership in Santos’ junior teams, before Neymar’s meteoric rise to the first team in 2007.
The loss of his partner in crime hardly mattered. Felipe Anderson’s rise continued steadily. Then in the middle of 2010, his major breakthrough came. Santos’ U18 team won the Paulista State Championship at that level in impressive fashion. Felipe Anderson was the creative heartbeat of the team during that victorious campaign. His performances in the competition catapulted him into the consciousness of the club’s higher ups. Later that year in the midst of an injury crisis, the youngster made his firs team debut as a sub in a 3-0 win over Fluminese. His first start followed soon after in a match against Avaí.
2011 saw Felipe Anderson given a permanent spot in the first team squad. Due to injuries and absences as a result of international duty, the eighteen year old got a chance to prove himself during the early rounds of the State Championship. It was a chance that he grabbed gleefully with a series of admirable displays. Felipe’s run as a creative force for Santos was cut short by the call to international duty for Brazil’s U18’s in the Mediterranean International Cup. There, his good form continued as he led the Brazilian team to the title. Predictably, several scouts stood up and took notice. After such a rewarding trip, Felipe Anderson returned to Santos ready to pick up where he left off. However, the return of several players, along with the thick flow of high pressure games, limited his appearances. Since then, the little maestro has only been given a few, sporadic chances for Santos’ first team. Yet, in spite of this, his star burned brightly every time his boots touched the field.
The teenager is already being called the heir-apparent to Ganso. It’s not hard to see why. Ganso’s elegance on the ball, his calmness under pressure, and his exquisite passing are mirrored in the style of the younger player. Felipe Anderson affirmed the similarity in their styles in an interview shortly before his debut in the first team. As he said that day:
“ I have the style of play of Ganso. I like to play in forward positions, while being calm on the field, but with strength and speed to advance the team.”
However, there are slight differences. While Ganso is more in the style of the traditional contemplative South American playmaker, Felipe Anderson is a bit more explosive and forward in his approach. This difference allows him to be as comfortable on the wings, as he is playing off the main striker, or in the hole.
With Alan Patrick already on his way to Shaktar Donetsk, and Ganso courting Italian suitors, Felipe may find himself bearing the historic mantle of the Santos playmaker very soon. With his talent, the weight should be easy to bear. However, first, a chance to show himself on the international stage awaits. He is a part of Ney Franco’s provisional squad for the U20 World Cup later this summer. If the youngster does make the trip to Colombia, the world will bear witness to the next rising talent from the port city of Santos sooner rather than later.