Real Madrid have long been linked with Brazilian superstar Neymar, but it is another, unheralded man from the South American football heartland that Los Blancos are currently tracking – Fluminense striker Pedro Guilherme.
According to reports in Spain, the 21-year-old hitman has caught the attention of a host of European clubs after scoring 12 goals in 23 games for the Brazilian side.
Sevilla, Roma and AC Milan are also in the mix for Guilherme, but AS believe Real lead the way in the battle for his signature.
Real are said to want to sign the Rio de Janeiro-born forward in January and loan him to another European club for the second half of the season, although it has been indicated that Madrid are not keen to match Pedro’s buyout clause, which shot up to a mammoth £44million after he recently signed a new deal until 2021.
The La Liga giants believe a deal can be done for around half of that sum, for a player who started his career with Fluminense’s fierce rivals Flamengo, but was released at 14.
The forward missed out on featuring for Brazil this week after sustaining a knee injury two weeks ago.
After losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus after the World Cup, new Los Blancos boss Julen Lopetegui is looking to reshape the European champions’ attack.
Vinicius Junior has arrived from Flamengo, Mariano Diaz has come in from Lyon and Rodrygo was prised away from Santos this summer as the Bernabeu has received a heavy injection of South American flair.
All three will provide competition for Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez as Real look to wrestle the La Liga title away from Barcelona.
The 19-year-old winger moved to the Etihad from Malaga in 2016 but has so far only made 12 first-team appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Diaz, who moved to Manchester for an initial £200,000 fee, made five Premier League appearances last season and came off the bench in City’s 2-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea at Wembley last month.
The Spaniard’s existing contract at City expires at the end of the 2018/19 season and, according to reports, the La Liga giants are closely monitoring developments with the view to bringing Diaz back to Spain.
The versatile attacker has represented Spain at Under-17, U19 and U21 level but has yet to win a senior cap.
Real Madrid parted with a reported €46 million last summer to reach an agreement with Flamengo for the services of Vinicius Jr and even at this early juncture, it’s looking like a worthwhile investment.
The Brazilian’s contract with Los Blancos only activated this summer, on his 18th birthday, after which he joined up with his new team in the Spanish capital.
He immediately impressed as his pace and trickery was on show in a clip from his first training session with the team that quickly did the rounds on social media and spread like wildfire.
In light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus and Madrid’s failure to replace him with either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius was a raw version of a player in a similar mould that served as a welcome distraction.
While Madrid have thus far resisted the temptation to throw the teenage sensation into the limelight by handing him a first team debut, it is only a matter of time before he gets the nod.
When he does make the step up, Vinicius will most likely be making history as the first player born in 2000 to play competitively for Madrid.
1 - During this season, Vinícius Júnior could be the first player born in 2000 to play a competitive game for Real Madrid. Future. pic.twitter.com/myoycpACQ6— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 5, 2018
He’s already been turning heads with his performances for the Castilla side, netting an eye-catching brace last weekend.
Against Atletico Madrid B, the Brazilian wonderkid made a great run down the outside and slotted away his first before curling in a stunning strike from outside the area for his second.
If he is any indication, the prospects from this millennium should do very well for Madrid indeed.