Like Zico and Adriano Imperador and, more recently, Lucas Paquetá, Vinicius Júnior and Matheus França, Matheus Gonçalves is another top talent produced at Ninho do Urubu; the home of Flamengo’s academy.
Gonçalves made his first team debut in a 2-1 win against América Mineiro in October 2022 under Dorival Júnior’s successful tenure as the Mengão head-coach.
It was under the Portuguese coach, Vitor Pereira, where the youngster gained a real opportunity within the first team.
However, when Pereira was sacked and Argentine Jorge Sampaoli was appointed (also since sacked from Flamengo), however, Gonçalves lost his place in the squad. As a result, he was loaned out to an emerging force in Brazilian football: Red Bull Bragantino.
Matheus Gonçalves player profile
A talented player, Gonçalves is carefully being watched by European clubs. The 18 year-old is an attacking-midfielder that can play on both wings as well as in a central role. He’s quick, comfortable with the ball at his feet and enjoys dropping deep to get himself involved in build-up play.
Gonçalves is a confident young player and shows that with his dribbling ability. He’s able to combine his good close ball control with his pace in order to carry the ball in attacking positions. All of this is strengthened by the fact that Gonçalves can play with both feet.
Even though Matheus can play in all areas of the pitch, as the heatmap above shows, he’s mostly been deployed as a right-winger this season for Bragantino.
Additionally, the heatmap also shows one of the main features in the youngsters game: the ability to cut inside when looking for space to shoot. Although comfortable playing with both feet, Gonçalves has a slight preference for his left foot, so it only makes more sense for him to play on the right wing.
The Brazilian (at the time of writing) has been involved in 12 matches (four starts) in all competitions for the Red Bull club averaging 36 minutes per game (up to Brasilerão matchweek 33).
As well as ability with both feet, Gonçalves' averaged 4.3 successful dribblers per 90 minutes.
His dribbling ability also plays a part in the fact that Gonçalves tends to be involved in shot-creating actions, not only for himself, but also for his teammates. A 12% of the shot-creating actions the youngster’s involved in come from successful take-ons.
Gonçalves has yet to score his first goal for Massa Bruta but with his confidence and comfort in the final third, he needs to make better decisions to take his game to the next level.
Although this is an aspect that Matheus can improve in his game, it is not at alarming just yet with his age and minuted on the field.
When it comes to his passing, he’s above average having a completion rate close to 80%, his improvement in decision making will help him with his passing as well, though it’s pretty solid to date.
Standing at 175cm, aerial duels are not his best suit, but Gonçalves is a relatively strong player and has what it takes to help defensively on the ground.
His intensity on the pitch is translated to his defensive work though there’s room for improvement that, again, will come with time and regularity in the senior game.
What does the future hold?
Gonçalves has already had scouts from Europe coming to watch him play and surely more will come soon enough but, as of now, staying in Brazil for a while longer is the best for him.
His start under Pedro Caixinha was slow but, now, at the end of his loan to the Bragança Paulista team, Gonçalves has been featuring more and has been impressing both Bragantino and his parent club, Flamengo.
In fact, reports say his parent club has already considered the loan move a major success with only a few weeks left until the end of Brazilian football season.
With Flamengo looking to renew their squad for next season under the eyes and mind of Tite, Gonçalves has a proper chance to make his case and win a spot in the team and eventually in the starting 11.
The 18 year-old has the potential to become an attacking force for a European club, but the Brazilian still needs to improve key aspects in his game so that he can become more complete and have a better chance of success abroad.