Everton Soares' Copa America performance opened UEFA doors
Background photo: Cléria De Souza, CC BY 2.0
Major tournaments make for the best shop windows. The World Cup, Euros and Copa America all have global appeal. The African Cup of Nations is growing more influential. A relatively unknown player at a comparatively small club can attract attention with a strong performance in the six weeks to a month given.
Asamoah Gyan caused a stir in South Africa that led to a Premier League debut with Sunderland in the 2010-11 season. James Rodriguez won the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot in Brazil and cashed it in for an €80 million transfer from Monaco to Real Madrid. At Russia 18, Yerry Mina and Benjamin Pavard clinched big moves with their performances. The French fullback moved up from VfB Stuttgart to Bayern Munich. The Colombian centre-half went in the other direction but with the promise of regular football at Everton that wasn't available with Barcelona.
This summer's Copa America unveiled another budding star. Gremio winger Everton Soares was a revelation for the hosts. With Neymar ruled out due to an ankle injury, the 23-year-old stepped in and filled his shoes admirably. His three goals earned him a share of the tournaments Golden Boot with Peruvian veteran Paolo Guerrero.
Displaying such aplomb in responding to the pressure of replacing a star who has stood on the Ballon d'Or podium is going to curry interest from top clubs. Nor is his form a flash in the pan. Brazil's Campeonato Serie-A season was barely underway when the Copa kicked off but the Copa Libertadores group stage was complete. In the twelve games combined, he'd registered six goals and an assist.
Transfermarkt values the Selecao wunderkind at €20 million but Gremio should expect to glean more than twice that for his services. To put it in perspective, Transfermarkt undervalued Cristiano Ronaldo by a combined €51 million in his transfers to and from Real Madrid. They rated Neymar at €38 million less than his transfer from Santos to Barcelona and at less than half the monstrous fee Paris Saint-Germain paid for him. Clubs love to overpay.
Few will blink an eye at €50 million for Everton's emerging talent. Bayern Munich and Manchester City are already top contenders for his signature. Among Premier League clubs, Manchester United and Arsenal are linked, too, as is West Ham. The two big questions may turn out to be at odds with one another. Who will land the starlet? Which club best suits him?
With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery retiring and Kingsley Coman on a first-name basis with half the sports-medicine specialists in Europe, Bayern desperately need cover on the wing. Everton would likely rotate with Coman and Serge Gnabry rather than start regularly, would have an opportunity for Champions League football but wouldn't face the same pressure that comes with a top-six Premier League side.
Bayern is also chasing Manchester City’s Leroy Sane. If City hold out for too high a fee, the Rekordmeister might look at more economical options. The worry is that coming to Europe to the Bundesliga directly is not what many Brazilians do lately. The trend is to go directly to La Liga or the Premier League.
City will be more eager to land Everton if they sell Sane. They, along with the other English clubs in the hunt, can be buoyed by reports the player's father is advising a Premier League move. Of course, he won't start. If the far more experienced Riyad Mahrez comes off the bench, the Brazilian must wait his turn, too. He'll have help coping from fellow Selecao Gabriel Jesus who remains second-choice to Sergio Aguero for manager Pep Guardiola.
Everton told reporters he wants to play if he makes the Transatlantic journey, however. That places Arsenal, United and especially West Ham in the fore. In fact, the Metro reports the player's agent ruled out a City move because he couldn't expect to play immediately. It's difficult to take the other Mancunian option seriously as well. While Ole Gunnar Solkjaer could use a winger on the right and Soares can play across the pitch, his best work is done from the left. United are already overloaded on that side.
Edu's appointment as the Gunners' sporting director could mean the North London side know best what they'd be getting. Unai Emery suffers for the lack of a genuine winger in the bargain. If Soares wants regular minutes at a top-six Premier League club, Arsenal is his best bet.
If he isn't overawed by status, West Ham is the most likely to give him playing time. Although Chilean Manuel Pellegrini is now in charge, the Hammers are also the interested party with the least to offer in terms of competition for trophies and a focussed plan to improve. But he'd be getting in on the ground floor and would again find a compatriot in Felipe Anderson to ease the transition.
Everton's ambition will determine where he begins his European career. Serie A and Ligue 1 can't be ruled out despite dad's advice. His son expressed interest in AC Milan before their European ban whereas two Brazilian legends, Ronaldinho and Juninho Pernambuco made their names in France. Soares may want to play in Europe immediately or have the patience to develop his game with a suitable mid-table club. One fact remains. He's given himself every option with his performance in the Copa.