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The rise of Estêvão Willian: Why Chelsea must invest in his development


Estevao

Nathan Joyes

Estêvão is likely to be on his way to Stamford Bridge.


There are a few more I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but there’s good reason to believe Palmeiras’ next young talent will be on the move in April 2025 when he turns 18.


The young Brazilian will become Chelsea’s second youth signing out of South America this year, having secured Independiente del Valle’s highly-rated Kendry Paez prior to the Under 20 World Cup.


Chelsea moved quickly for both players and it’s hard to blame them. 


Many in South America, however, are not particularly pleased with their best talents being cherry-picked at such young ages. Yet if it wasn’t the South London club snapping them up, it would have been another European powerhouse.


These were simply opportunities which Chelsea felt as though they couldn’t be missed - and they are, in this case, absolutely right.

Paez’s performances at the World Cup turned heads as he became the youngest ever goalscorer in the tournament’s history at just 16.


Five months later, he became the senior’s youngest ever goalscorer in the World Cup qualifiers with a goal in La Paz vs Bolivia.


The attention he attracted in an Ecuador shirt showed why Chelsea was smart to secure his signature before others had caught a glimpse. They were proactive, and that at the very least must be applauded.


The same applies with Estêvão. 



Estêvão’s rise with Palmeiras


In his first 12 senior appearances this season, he’s already scored in the Brasileirão, Copa do Brasil and Libertadores. If he’s selected for Brazil’s Copa America squad, his stock will rise and Palmeiras could end up demanding more.


Yet Chelsea have been keeping tabs on him for some time. More importantly, their Brazilian scout, Alysson Marins, who used to work with Corinthians, has been their man on the ground helping to shape the deal.


The manner in which the club conducted the negotiations for not only Paez, but also Estêvão, is why we’ve seen the deals move quickly. Many European teams have previously sent low offers and offended clubs based in South America, in particular Brazil.


Marins wasn’t going to allow that to happen. Especially with Messinho.


Estêvão started making waves long before this season, but his performances in the 2024 Copinha - a high-level U20 youth tournament before senior football begins - where the vast majority of his YouTube compilations began to be put together.


The two-time champions disappointed as Palmeiras were knocked out in the quarter-finals. Still, their teenage sensation showed he was a step - or two - above his opponents. 


With four goals and a couple of assists to his name, alongside numerous showboating tricks that humiliated his opponents, he certainly made sure he was the talk of the tournament despite their early exit.


Estêvão can only be described as a space eater with a killer instinct in front of goal.

His unpredictability on the right hand side has made him one of the most exciting young players coming out of Brazil since a certain Neymar. High praise, I’m well aware.


Not only is he direct, but the way in which the Brazilian carries the ball forward with it appearing to be glued to either foot makes it almost impossible to take the ball off him - without bringing him down, of course.


His finishing, with either foot, has been mightily impressive. The sheer power he generates from dead balls or when cutting inside is frightening, and an area of his game that will only improve as his body continues to develop.


Can Estêvão cut it outside of Brazil?


For South American talent to flourish in Europe, the mentality of the individual has to be strong.


Both Estêvão and Kendry Paez have flourished since being under the spotlight this season for their respective clubs, and the intelligence and maturity they’ve shown on the field must leave Chelsea confident they can adapt to the Premier League in due course.


The question on everyone’s lips is whether or not Chelsea is the right environment for these types of players. Time will tell.


Both have clearly been identified as targets and who can blame Chelsea for bringing them in? If a club can sign the best two youth products in South America, most would jump at the opportunity - and perhaps those who missed out will kick themselves for missing out.


Chelsea were once that club with Endrick who, as mentioned, is off to play in La Liga next season. They were determined not to make the same mistake again.


What’s the plan, Chelsea?


It’s vitally important that a long-term plan is in place to help these two generational talents fulfill their early promise - and that’s exactly what they are.


Players like Paez and Estêvão don’t come around often, and the fact we get to see them play in the same team could be very special and spoken about for years to come - if managed correctly.


Chelsea have spent poorly in the transfer market in recent times. There’s no denying that. A scattergun approach was never going to see them succeed, but if the club has managed to convince both del Valle and Palmeiras to let their star assets join the project, one can only hope they stick to their promise.


The club may be stacked with players in the final third, which will bring about further complications for whoever is in charge when the pair arrive, but they’ve managed to attract two of the biggest talents bursting onto the scene to the club.


That in itself, is a success. Now it’s time for Chelsea to prove everyone wrong.


Exclusive Estêvão chat on YouTube




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