Man Utd are in hot pursuit of Brazil’s Neymar-inspired next joga bonito superstar

We’re not sure what exactly has changed, but there might be something in the water in Brazil, who appear to finally be on the cusp of a golden generation once again.

Football fans across the world have longed for the glory days when Ronaldinho ran the game and was backed up at national level by a squad full of Selecao stars.

From Kaka to Carlos, Romario to Ronaldinho, Brazil simply couldn’t stop producing baller after baller in the 1990s and 2000s. It led to unfathomable pressure being dumped on the shoulders of Neymar following his emergence, and while he did his best to fly the flag, it always felt like a one-player operation.

Neymar was the only one really capable of replicating that feeling of pure, unbridled Joga Bonito joy that came before him.

Opinion will forever be split on the polarising forward, but whether you think he let us down or football let him down, one thing is for sure – he walked so that this currently emerging pool of talent could run.

They’re running alright. But while all the eyes are on Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo’s ascent to superstardom and the rise of Endrick, it’s Gustavo Nunes cooking away in the background who you ought to keep an eye on.

Born in Sao Vicente do Sul, the tricky teenage winger has all the tools to become an all-time great himself and – most importantly – restore that feeling of joy that used to come with watching Brazil strut their stuff.

Currently strutting his stuff for Gremio, Nunes only made his senior debut at the beginning of 2024, after signing as a 15-year-old back in 2021. It’s been a humble rise to the men’s game for the teenager, but it’s not taken him long to dazzle spectators and send opponents home dizzy and disgruntled.

We’ve heard it all before about young ballers, but when you watch Nunes, it feels like you’re watching a special talent blossom before your eyes, similar to how Endrick’s meteoric rise has felt over the last year or two.

Capable of finding the back of the net or setting up others, the 18-year-old already possesses a wicked vision that couples up with a flair and creativity which feels like a dying art these days.

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Desperate to split the lines be it with a killer pass or a nauseating run full of skill, there’s always a purpose to his actions. And at just 18 and barely a professional, that’s a mightily impressive trait to boast.

Nunes glides with the ball at his feet and already appears to have a solid IQ when it comes to the timing of his passes, as well as being able to drop a shoulder and zap an unknowing defender.

That spatial awareness and close control might have something to do with early beginnings in futsal. Nunes’ coach at Ocian at under-14 and under-16 level explained to GZH: “He really liked space, being forward and needing to adapt to the short space of futsal. It is really pleasing to see him become a professional now.”

With a fantastic assist and a goal in his first four games for Gremio, European giants are naturally circling for Nunes. Manchester United have already had scouts cast an eye on the teenager, while Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are all said to be keeping tabs on him too.

Naturally compared to Neymar given his profile as a left-sided winger with a pair of feet blessed with magical skills, Nunes no doubt sees his fellow Brazilian as inspiration, but is good enough to stay in his own lane and carve his own legacy.

By Mitch Wilks

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