Victor Andrade – An Eagle Becomes a Lion

Victor Andrade – An Eagle Becomes a Lion

Manuel Veth –

It has almost become a stigma. Every talented young Brazilian player, especially those who hail from FC Santos, is labelled as the new Neymar. This phenomenon could recently be observed with FC Santos’ brilliant striker Gabriel Barbosa, and Manchester City’s potential new signing Gabriel Jesus, who plays for the São Paulo based club Palmeiras.

Another player, who has been labelled the new Neymar was the now 20-year-old Brazilian winger Victor Andrade. Like Neymar, Andrade is a product of Santos FC where he played between 2007 and 2012.

 Victor Andrade Heralds From Brazil’s Poor Northern Region

Andrade was born in Aracaju, which is located 350 kilometres from Salvador in one of Brazil’s poorest regions. At just ten years of age, Andrade joined Salvador’s Esporte Clube Vitória. It was at Vitória that Andrade was spotted by Benfica for the first time, and Andrade joined the Portuguese club for a brief period, playing several youth games with the Eagles from Lisbon.

Victor Andrade played for Vitória in Salvador - Image by Carol Garcia cc-by-2.0

Victor Andrade played for Vitória in Salvador – Image by Carol Garcia cc-by-2.0

Yet Andrade’s young age (he was just eleven at the time) led Benfica’s club officials and Andrade’s parents to believe that he was too young to join the Portuguese club. Another issue may have been FIFA’s strict regulations that make it difficult to purchase under aged over-seas players.

Hence, Andrade moved to FC Santos in 2007 where he became part of the legendary club’s youth setup between 2007 and 2012. It was in his later years with the club youth team that Neymar had become a superstar in Brazil.

 The Stigma of the Next Neymar

Young Brazilian stars—much like Argentinian players with Diego Maradona—have long had to endure the fact that they would immediately be compared to the legendary Pelé whenever they showed any potential. This stigma was even worse for players coming out of FC Santos, Pelé’s club in Brazil; even Neymar had to deal with the next Pelé stigma, until he became a superstar in his own right.

Now, however, it appears that, due to Neymar’s stardom, the label has moved from the next Pelé to the next Neymar. Hence, when Andrade signed his first professional contract in 2011 at FC Santos, many press agencies celebrated the right-winger as the next Neymar.

Of course it didn’t help that the contract included a €50 million exit clause, which was €5 million more than Neymar’s exit clause at FC Santos. The transfer clause, in particular, hyped up the then 16-year-old as Globo linked the player with moves to Manchester City and FC Barcelona.

For many young Brazilian players the comparisons to Neymar have become like a stigma - Image by Alex Fau cc-by-2.0

For many young Brazilian players the comparisons to Neymar have become like a stigma – Image by Alex Fau cc-by-2.0

At the time, the Brazilian sports news outlet Lancenet wrote that Santos were following a similar career plan for the winger as they had with Neymar. The player became a project, which was guided by the media department and communications centre of the club.

Andrade was given language courses, media training—in order to better prepare for interviews and advertising action—and even speech therapy sessions to improve his media voice. The club also tried to create the image of the new Neymar, and Santos tried to gain personal sponsorship deals for Andrade (of which he was supposed to receive a certain percentage).

 Victor Andrade Could not Fulfil his Potential at Santos

He then appeared as a 16-year-old in the Brazilian Série A making his debut in a 1-1 draw against Fluminese in June 2012. He subsequently went on to make 19 appearances, scoring three goals in the process, in his first year at the club.

Yet, Andrade failed to fulfil his early promise as the next Neymar. The Brazilian writer Paulo Freitas told FutebolCidade that Andrade simply lacked the finish to become the next Neymar, furthermore, the technically gifted winger was also a difficult character, which made it hard for Santos to give Andrade the same kind of sunny boy image that they had so successfully projected with Neymar.

Hence, the next Neymar project was put on hold, and Andrade only managed a few starts for Santos in the following two seasons. Then in 2014, he refused to extend his contract, and moved on a free transfer to Benfica Lisbon, who had tracked the player’s development ever since he had played briefly for their youth team back in 2006.

 Benfica Lisbon Snapped up Victor Andrade for a Second Time

Benfica are known for their excellent talent school, and Andrade hoped that the club’s academy could give him the necessary push to finally fulfil his potential. Benfica placed him in their reserve squad the Benfica B team, which plays in the LigaPro (Portugal’s second division). Then in 2015 he was finally called up to play for Benfica’s first team.

Benfica’s ability to unearth talent, also meant that Andrade managed to get into the scouting books of some of Europe’s major clubs right away. In 2015, Manchester City reportedly offered £25 million for the Benfica player, yet Benfica either refused, or the often overly hasty British press—which is probably the more likely scenario—made up the sum and the interest.

Yet UEFA also took note and featured Andrade as part of the UEFA’s weekly wonderkid column in September 2015. Once again, comparisons were made to Neymar, yet the writers at UEFA admitted that the two were, in fact, different players, especially as Andrade seemed to lack the scoring touch of the more centrally playing Barcelona striker.

What has become apparent though is his talent, and Benfica, who are dependent on producing talent and selling them with a profit, wanted to give Andrade time to play first team football on a regular basis—especially after it was revealed that the club had paid €3.94 million in agent fees to land the player. On February 2016, he was loaned out to league rivals Vitória de Guimarães were he played seven games for the first team, and two games for the second team, but failed to score any goals.

 Can Victor Andrade Finally Fulfil his Potential at 1860 Munich?

Now Benfica have loaned him out once again, this time to second Bundesliga team 1860 Munich. The German based club has already made major news in Germany this summer, as they are about to bring in the Brazilian striker Ribamar from Botafogo for €2.5 million (more on that here).

The two Brazilians have caused a reasonable degree of hype in the Bavarian capital, as both Brazilians are deemed to be in a category that is usually above that which is available to a team that has just escaped relegation to the 3. Liga (third division).

But there are reasons why the club was able to land both players. Both players are considered diamonds in the rough that will require plenty of polishing before they are going to shine. In Ribamar’s case the concern is finishing, and some minor injuries.

Victor Andrade, however, is a different case altogether, as the Brazilian is considered to have a very problematic personality. 1860 Munich’s manager Kosta Runjaić has already had to call out Andrade for his behaviour during a test match where he seemed to lose his head and attack two Borussia Dortmund players—and was lucky to not receive a red card.

Runjaić later stated that Andrade “has to cool down” if he wants to be successful. Hence, the Brazilian will be somewhat of a project for the manager, who has the already challenging task of stabilizing one of Germany’s most historic clubs. At the same time, although Andrade might not be the next Neymar, if he manages to keep his head he could very well become a key transfer for 1860 Munich, which in turn could also help Andrade to finally actualize his potential.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London. His thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be available soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.