Scouting Brazil's Serie A

While South America remains one of the most interesting regions from a scouting and talent development perspective there are areas within the continent that are more dense in terms of potential than others. When we think about football in South America our thoughts will, almost inevitably, turn to the likes of Brazil and Argentina, and rightly so.


Both countries have a proven track record of success at the international level and despite some of the socio-economic issues that persist they provide a consistent pipeline of talent to Europe. There is something about your team signing a player from Brazil or Argentina that provokes the imagination. But with the sheer amount of players in the region and the amount of games that are played, using data to find the right players is paramount.


The use of data when scouting and recruiting from South America allows us to effectively filter and identify groups of players who are performing at a level that fits what you might be looking for in your club. 


In this article, we will use Smarterscout data to identify four interesting players in the Brazilian leagues that clubs should be paying attention to. For the purpose of this piece, we will not be limiting ourselves only to young players to highlight how many players there are, even those at later stages of their careers, who would still be able to play at a high level should they decide to leave Brazil. While finding young talent is always a priority and something Smarterscout does really well, young talent is not always the answer to a team's immediate needs.


First up: Raphael Veiga, 28, ST/AM, Palmeiras and Brazil




The first player that we have selected through the data is the 28-year-old international Raphael Veiga. He is capable of playing either as a striker, a second striker, a number 10 off the front line, or even from the wide areas.


The scatter chart above is created using Smarterscout data and this one is relatively self-explanatory. Along the x-axis we have goals per shot and along the y-axis we have xG per shot. This shows not only the player's efficiency in terms of finishing their shots but also the quality of the shots that they are taking. As you can see Raphael Veiga is firmly in the upper right quadrant of our chart signaling strong performance.




When we then take the Smarterscout data and visualize it more completely in a pizza chart then you can start to see where Veiga’s strengths really are. He played 2697 minutes last season in Brazil’s Serie A and he was in the 85th percentile for goal contributions (goals + assists) and the 81st percentile for expected goal contributions (xG + xA) as well as being in the 90th percentile for shots per 90. The fact that he takes so many shots, combined with the fact that we already know he converts at a decent rate, is a huge positive. As you can see his passing and creative outputs are also relatively strong and he is in the 75th percentile for dangerous passes (passes to the final third + passes to the penalty area) and the 64th percentile for progressive passes.


At 28 years old Raphael Veiga has played his entire career in Brazil but given his quality he has the potential to still make a move to a big foreign league. At this stage in his career, you would think that MLS and the Saudi Pro League would be interesting options alongside some of the bigger European leagues.


Next up: Thiago Borbas, 21, ST, RB Bragantino and Uruguay



Thiago Borbas is a 21-year-old Uruguayan striker who is comfortable when dropping deep or coming out and into the channels or half-spaces to receive the ball. The scatter chart above shows dribbles along the x-axis and pxtxgrev along the y-axis. This is a metric that shows players who are adept at receiving the ball in a position from where they are expected to progress the ball towards goal. In other words, we are seeing players who receive the ball in dangerous areas and then have the ability to carry the ball forward.




Once again we can see from his pizza chart that Borbas is an interesting and talented forward player. He played 1692 minutes in Serie A last season and ended up in the 75th percentile for goal contributions and the 65th percentile for expected goal contributions as well as being in the 79th percentile for shots per 90 and the 94th percentile for touches in the opposition area. As his underlying attacking data is strong we expect his output to continue to grow.


Interestingly, for a forward player, we can also see that his possession and defensive outputs are relatively strong. He seems to be a pressing forward player who plays with intensity.


Given that Borbas is already at a club in the Red Bull system of clubs it would not be a surprise to see him make the move to RB Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga or even RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga.



Next up: Franco Cristaldo, 27, CM, Gremio and Argentina




Next up we have a 27-year-old Argentinian central midfielder who has been impressing for Gremio in Serie A having moved from Huracan of Argentina for a reported fee of €4M last summer. Once again we have used Smarterscout data to visualize the performances of central midfielders in Brazil last season. This time along the x-axis we have BallRet which visualizes a player's ability to retain possession of the ball when he is under pressure and then on the y-axis we have Forward which shows a player's ability to play forward.


As you can see Cristaldo excels in terms of ball retention while also being comfortably above average in terms of forward passing. He is a central midfielder who is a key ball progressor for his team but he also has some ability in front of goal as we will see.




For a central midfielders pizza chart, we should always start by considering the areas of possession and ball progression. As you can see from Cristaldo’s pizza chart his possession numbers are impressive. He is in the 91st percentile for passes per 90 and the 79th percentile for pass completion. He uses the ball aggressively, however, and he is in the 75th percentile for dangerous passes as well. Interestingly, for a central midfielder, we can also see that, when compared to other midfielders, he is in the 78th percentile for goal contributions and the 77th percentile for expected goal contributions. 


Franco Cristaldo already had a spell at the start of his career in Spain with Elche and Rayo Vallecano and his skill set would be extremely effective in Spain, Italy, or even in Portugal.



Finally: Luis Guilherme, 17, RW/RWB, Palmeiras and Brazil




It would be remiss to write an article about scouting and recruitment in Brazil and not include at least one young player with high potential. The U20 international winger or wingback Luis Guilherme is that player on this occasion. The 17-year-old is very highly rated in Brazil and as you can see his data is impressive for a player so young in a competitive league.


In this scatter chart, the x-axis is smpsi, a metric that measures the player's involvement in moves that lead to a shot. On the y-axis we have carry which shows how effective the players in question are in terms of carrying the ball up the pitch. As you can see he is an interesting ball carrier.




The outputs from Luis Guilherme at this point, as a 17-year-old, are very impressive. He played 690 minutes in Serie A last season and he was in the 89th percentile for dribbles per 90 and the 71st percentile for shots per 90. In terms of passing and progression of the ball, he was in the 76th percentile for dangerous passes and the 80th percentile for progressive passes.


For a young player making his breakthrough at the senior level these outputs are very impressive and he is a player that we would be expecting to become a target of clubs that are capable of challenging at the latter stages of the Champions League in Europe.




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