Sports commentators have variously described him as a “force of nature”, “the newest jewel of Brazilian football”, and in moments of extreme excitement, “the future of world football”. They are overawed by his skill with both the right and the left foot, and his precision shooting. The world sat up and took note when he became the breakout star of Brazil’s Copinha (Under-20 championship) cup early this year. Endrick Felipe Moreira de Sousa has that effect on you. At 16, he is so skilled yet so grounded and focused, something uncommon among teenagers in Brazil, where the pleasures of life are there for you to pluck.
The pride of São Paulo’s Palmeiras Club is being watched closely by top English and European clubs. Speaking exclusively to THE WEEK, Endrick credits his father and Palmeiras for always believing in him. His success, he says, is the product of years of hard work and sacrifice.
He has been compared with Brazilian stars Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Ronaldo and Romario, though his idol is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. But he told us that he does not compare himself with any other player. “I believe that each player has his own qualities and characteristics,” he says. Excerpts from the interview:
Your family was poor while you were growing up. What do you want to do for your father? Do you remember the time he took you to Palmeiras?
It was a very important moment in our lives. Palmeiras always believed in me, the club bet on my future and, since then, it has allowed me to fulfil the dream of transforming my family’s life.
When I left Brasilia, my father accompanied me and was welcomed by Palmeiras, that made all the difference. I worked hard from the day I arrived to show my football on the pitch, giving my best in all competitions. The signing of the professional contract was just the result of everything we planned since the beginning.
You have been dubbed the next big thing in Brazilian football. Do you think the pressure imposed by expectations is too much?
I try not to think about the future. My focus is on the present, always on the next game. I have to give myself as much as possible on the field, so that I can help the team. Everything else happens in God’s time.
I defend the colours of a great club, which gives me everything I need to play at the highest level. My family and the people around me help me stay focused.
You are being called the successor to Brazilian legends like Romario and Ronaldo.
Every young athlete is inspired by players who have left their mark on the history of Brazilian football. I want to conquer the same things they conquered, but my goal is to build my own trajectory, to be known for my story.
You said that Cristiano Ronaldo is your idol. What makes him so special to you?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a great inspiration for the way he works and gives himself every day. I have that same dedication. I admire all athletes who seek perfection at all times. Although I really like his football, I try not to make comparisons, because I believe that each player has his own qualities and characteristics.
You’ve had great moments in your career, in terms of goals, passes.... Is there a goal or something that means more than other things?
The most important moments are always the titles, the conquests I had with my teammates from Palmeiras. Copinha was very special, a title that the club did not yet have. I had the pleasure of performing well in the competition and the honor of receiving the Dener Award for the most beautiful goal of the tournament.
What do you think is your greatest strength on and off the field?
When you play for a big club, you need to try to evolve every day. I’m never fully satisfied with my football; I know I can become better if I dedicate myself. My great strength is willpower; I wake up every day focused on what I have to do on the pitch, in addition to taking care of myself off the pitch. I have the help of very competent professionals. Up front, I try to move intelligently to be well placed, being able to finish with precision.
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You became famous with clips on YouTube. Do you follow social media?
I didn’t become famous on YouTube. In the past, when we were still unknowns, we used videos to reach clubs. Today, I am recognised for what I show on the field, after years of hard work and sacrifice.
You should be aware of the interest many top European clubs have shown in you. Do you have any preferences?
I try not to think about the future. My focus is totally on Palmeiras and the next game. I’m still 16 years old and I have a lot to show on the pitch. I want to continue my beautiful story with the club and, God willing, win many titles for Palmeiras and give many joys to our wonderful crowd.
Do you still have time for Sunday lunch with family?
My family is very important to me, they are my base. The moments with my parents and brother are very special. I don’t give up on that. All my family members support me and do everything so that I can do my best on the field.
What is your message to Palmeiras fans? And your fans around the world?
For the Palmeiras family, they can expect a lot of dedication on the field. There will never be a lack of willingness to help the team, scoring goals and running at all times. We will still celebrate many achievements together. To those who follow me around the world, I am glad for the support. I hope they can celebrate many of my goals and that they will always cheer for me.
WITH SONYA PRUSS