Big Lang Theory: Five young Brazilians to look out for in the January transfer window



For one month every year, a sizeable chunk of the world rejoices as presents rain down courtesy of benevolent bearded benefactors. Yes, the January transfer window is just around the corner, promising another flurry of joy, pain and barely believable men with two mobile phones clogging up Sky Sports News with rumours about Peter Crouch being spotted in a chip shop in Norfolk. It is both a fever dream and a waking nightmare for football fans.

If you're lucky, your chairman might avoid the pitfalls of the market (Marlon King, Nigel Quashie, etc) and bring in some South American talent to spice things up in 2013. For your consideration, here are five young Brazilians who could be appearing on Premier League wish lists this year. (I've left out Neymar, because (a) you already know about him and (b) there's more chance of hell freezing over than him moving to England in January. Sorry, Man City.)


1. Bernard (Atlético Mineiro)

While Ronaldinho Gaúcho hogged much of the limelight during Atlético's unexpected Campeonato Brasileiro title challenge, the real star of the show was his diminutive attacking sidekick. Bernard, who turned 20 midway through the season, captured the imagination of the Galo fans with a series of exuberant displays. An energetic, fleet-footed presence, the youngster enjoyed great success drifting infield from the left flank, chipping in with 11 goals and creating countless others (including this heart-stopping double-chapeu assist against Grêmio). Ronaldinho himself says that Bernard has "lots in common" with a young Lionel Messi. He's not wrong. Bernard is certainly one to... er... watch.

Would suit: Liverpool, Arsenal.


2. Paulinho (Corinthians)

Slightly older than some of the other names on this list at 24, Paulinho is the real deal. The midfielder has been Corinthians' standout player for a couple of seasons now, and was influential as the Timão won both the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup this year. While nominally a volante (defensive midfielder), his real strength lies in his ability to make surging runs into the box. That Bryan Robson-esque knack, coupled with his stellar aerial ability, has seen him plunder plenty of goals - both for Corinthians and for Brazil, for whom he appears to have nailed down a starting spot. Internazionale have been pursuing him for a while, but it will take a big money bid to prize him away from the São Paulo giants.

Would suit: Chelsea, Manchester United.


3. Bruno Mendes (Botafogo)

A rangy, awkward-looking youth, Bruno Mendes looks like he should be in college rather than playing top-flight football. (Not an unreasonable claim, considering he's just turned 18.) But when Bruno plays, things happen. Earlier in the year he helped Guarani to second place in the São Paulo state championship - their best performance in 24 years - before catching the eye of Botafogo boss Oswaldo de Oliveira in a cup game. He swapped Campinas for Rio de Janeiro and didn't look back, bagging six goals in just six Série A starts for O Glorioso. Blessed with killer instincts in front of goal, he'll only get better as he fills out.

Would suit: Liverpool, Spurs.


4. Wellington Nem (Fluminense)

Voted 'revelation' of the year in 2011 after leading modest Figueirense to 7th in Série A, Wellington Nem continued his ascent back at parent club Fluminense this year. One half of a pleasingly chalk-and-cheese partnership with the ruthless Fred, Nem bewitched defenders with his zippy, effervescent dribbles as the Tricolor waltzed to a second title in three years. His form saw him ushered into the Brazil set-up by now-departed boss Mano Menezes, and it is likely to be only a matter of time before he crosses the Atlantic.

Would suit: Arsenal, Man City.


5. Souza (Náutico)

Unfancied before the start of the Série A season, Recife outfit Náutico confounded the doubters to finish in a respectable mid-table position. Combative midfielder Souza deserves plenty of the credit for that achievement. A player whose career appeared to be on the wane after a spell at Palmeiras petered out, the 24-year-old resurfaced in style, setting an example for his team-mates with a series of all-action displays. His dead ball delivery was particularly noteworthy, allowing him to score seven goals - his best ever tally as a professional. If he keeps improving, he could be a shrewd signing for a number of sides.

Would suit: Everton, Newcastle.