O que éque foi isso!
What was that!
Sao Paulo; January 20, 2022. The Palmeiras number 9 is facing away from the goal, the ball dropping behind him outside the opposition penalty area. Then, suddenly, without looking, he is in the air as if on an easy sleigh. His left leg does a flip to kick the ball over his shoulder into the corner of the net 18 yards away, out of reach of a bewildered goalkeeper.
The commentator is stunned. The world stops.
“What was that!”
The world resumes. The stadium is now noisier and excited.
Plenty of players have done the scissor-kick to telling effort before him. But this one is a sight to behold.
“It was perfect timing; it was mind-blowingly accurate,” the commentator is searching for words to express what he has just witnessed.
Endrick Felipe, then 15, showed an uncommon spatial sense while the ball was being played behind him. He did not have a long time to see it coming, but as the ball came down, his legs sliced the air and bang! It was beautiful alright, but it was so much more. Like seeing Michelangelo’s original David after seeing imitations all your life.
“He is probably the most hyped star since Neymar Junior,” says Gustave Morrison from New Zealand, a Palmeiras fan and football devotee living in Brazil. In the same breath, Gustave compares him with Ronaldo Nazario, the last great Brazilian striker. “He controls the ball on his chest, turns and volleys it from outside the box,” says Gustave, “a bloody good goal.”
The expectations placed on such young players worry journalist and football connoisseur Erick Gimenes. “New Ronaldos, new Ronaldinhos and new Peles have happened in Brazil before and did not become all that was expected,” says Erick. Yet, he sees in Endrick some characteristics of Ronaldo and Romario “for being a goal-scorer and combining strength with skill”.
Noting the asymmetry of comparing Endrick to “two of the greatest in history”, Erick says that he sees a marked difference in relation to them because, Endrick, “in addition to being a top scorer is also a game builder, though he does not carry the ball like Maradona”.
According to Erick, like Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero, Endrick is a strong player, and, on the field, looks five years older than his age. “I never saw a player do what he does,” says Erick. “I don’t remember Gabriel Jesus doing that.”
Erick says Jesus, who is currently on a dream run with Arsenal, made many mistakes and took a long time to improve. “Vinicius Jr [Real Madrid], too, made many mistakes,” he says.
Early fame and high expectations do not seem to translate into pressure on the young man, says Erick, elaborating on the most defining factor about Endrick, his mental control. “He has a lot of fame and is very young, but he just continues playing very well, and nothing changes.”
Rui de Paula Rodrigues Junior, a passionate Palmeiras fan, began noticing Endrick’s performance and “beautiful goals” during the Under-17 Copa in São Paulo. “He is very skillful, does great and beautiful dribbles, has a brilliant view of the game and great technique,” he says. “His play is fantastic while playing with teenagers and even in the practice with the pros. He has a good overview of the game, which allows him to create plays with strategic paces.”
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At 5’ 6’’, he is just like Pele in stature, notes Rui. “His ability compensates for his size. He is strong and fast. He has two great abilities—his dribbling skills and shots to goal,” says Rui. “As a left foot attacker and a great dribbler, he is comparable with Mohammed Salah and Lionel Messi. His sprint and ability to explode remind me of Ronaldo Nazario.”
Rui adds a note of caution: “We still need to see him play as a pro. He needs to play with the biggest and show the results as the greatest do.”
Trainer Silas Eduardo Severino, who worked with Endrick for years developing his talent has this to say about the comparisons with Neymar. “He is a lot better than what the numbers show,” he says. “He is more focused than Neymar, he is fast in making decisions unlike other Brazilian players.”
Silas compares him with modern age tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. “Federer is talented, intelligent, cold, and cool. Nadal is emotional and he transforms that emotion into force with intelligence. Endrick is a mix of the two. He has Federer’s technique, and Nadal’s soul, the drive, the desire. Add to that Pele’s objectivity.”