REINIER JESUS CARVALHO
Age: 17 - Appearances: 12 - Goals: 4 - Assists: 2
Strong and level-headed for his age, Reinier Jesus made his debut for Flamengo in their crucial Copa Libertadores second-leg comeback against Emelec at the beginning of August, demonstrating the huge amount of belief that Jorge Jesus and everyone at the club have in the 17-year-old.
The attacking-midfielder and forward has looked completely at home in professional football since making the step up, scoring and assisting on his first start for the club, away to Avaí in September. The young man has great movement and gets into dangerous positions between the opposition midfield and defence, often making intelligent, late runs into the box where he shows great composure in front of goal. His superb vision and excellent link play with the wingers and forwards, plus his ability to hold the ball up well also marks him out as a potential false-9 or second striker.
He has since made himself an important option off the bench for his manager, scoring four times and assisting twice in his first 12 appearances.
The son of world futsal champion, Mauro Brasília, Reinier was born in the Brazilian capital before moving to Rio and played for all four of the city’s major teams at youth level, eventually settling at Flamengo in 2013.
Reinier also has a superb record with Brazil’s youth teams finding the net seven times in his 12 starts for the U15s and U17s and was made captain for the U17 Copa America earlier this year. He was selected for the U17 World Cup as one of Brazil’s biggest young talents alongside Vasco’s Talles Magno, but was withdrawn from the competition at the request of his club because the right-footed teenager is seen as a key player in helping deliver both the league and Libertadores titles.
Compared to Kaká by Jorge Jesus because of his physical attributes and ability to play the game at speed, Reinier is being monitored by a number of top European sides but recently signed a five-year-deal with Flamengo with a release clause of 70 million euros.
Expect him to come off the bench on Saturday should the Rio side need a late goal to clinch Libertadores glory.
GERSON SANTOS DA SILVA
Age: 22 - Appearances: 29 - Goals: 2 - Assists: 3
Gerson has been the revelation of Flamengo’s incredible run in the last six months, making himself completely indispensable to the club’s starting eleven.
Left-footed and rangy, Gerson keeps the ball superbly well and he is the key starting point, along with Everton Ribeiro, for a large percentage of Flamengo’s attacking moves, whilst working in tandem with Willian Arao as an excellent defensive screen, his strong tackling often snuffing rival attacks out at source.
Another prodigious talent off the Fluminense production line that has recently given us Richarlison (at Everton) and João Pedro (soon on his way to Watford) and which continues to produce top youngsters.
The 22-year-old centre-midfielder arrived from Roma in July, to a mooted response from the fans, as the most expensive home-grown player ever contracted by a Brazilian club. He cost 11.8 million euros; only Tevez (to Corinthians in 2004) and Arrascaeta (to Flamengo this year) have cost more. He wasn't greeted by much fanfare after failing to find a regular place in the Roma side and going on loan to Fiorentina before being picked up by the rubro-negro as a replacment for the Colombian, Gustavo Cuéllar. He quickly found his way into the hearts of the fans though and has looked more and more assured every week and his trademark celebration is currently a huge meme on matchdays.
Aged 17, Gerson was promoted to Fluminense’s 1st team squad in 2014, making 31 appearances before being signed by Roma in January 2016.
Gerson has now shown himself to be the complete midfield package this season and is probably one of the top three stand-out central players in Brazilian football this season. A definite starter on Saturday, with a number of top pundits in Brazil believing that victory over the dynamic River Plate would be impossible without him.