Thalys: Palmeiras’ new Rivaldo who tore up the CEE Cup

Palmeiras are the team in Brazil to whom all others aspire right now. Copa Libertadores winners in both 2020 and 2021, they currently sit atop their domestic leagues at both senior and Under-20s level, with that same youth team having won the prestigious Copinha earlier this year.

Theirs is a success that has been built at home, too, with the recent crop of Palmeiras academy products set to be littered around Europe’s biggest clubs over the next few years.

Two-time NXGN nominee Gabriel Veron flew the nest earlier this summer, joining Porto in an initial €10 million (£8.4m/$10.2m) deal, and the likes of Gabriel Menino, Danilo and Giovani will not be far behind him in leaving the Verdao.

Even younger players, such as electric 16-year-old Endrick and his attacking partner in crime, Luis Guilherme, are already being linked with mega-money moves to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Neither Endrick or Guilherme, however, were part of the Palmeiras U19s squad that made the trip to Prague to compete in the 2022 CEE Cup, the prestigious annual youth tournament held in the Czech Republic.

But in a show of strength in depth, Palmeiras ran out victors regardless, scoring 14 goals in just three games to claim the trophy for the third successive time.

The star of their campaign was attacking midfielder Thalys, who finished as the competition’s joint-top scorer with three goals and was named the NXGN Player of the Tournament.

Though his exploits in front of goal took the headlines after he netted the winner in Palmeiras’ 2-1 victory over Slavia Prague in the final, it was Thalys’ all-round game that really stood out.

Notionally an attacking midfielder, the 17-year-old is comfortable playing in a number of different roles, including as a false nine and off the right, where he can cut inside onto his favoured left foot.

He glides past opponents while maintaining close control with ease, his tall, slender frame harking back to one of Palmeiras’ greatest ever players, Rivaldo.

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We are, however, only six years on from Thalys almost giving up on the game all together.

His father died when he was just four, and by the age of 11, he was ready to quit football so as to ease the burden on his mother.

She, though, pushed her son to continue following his dreams and, in April 2021, that dream took a further step towards reality as he was enrolled into the Palmeiras academy.

Thalys, who at the time was playing in the youth system of second division side Clube de Regatas Brasil, enchanted Palmeiras’ scouts with the way he manipulated the ball in possession and picked out passes to his team-mates, and he was soon invited to move to Sao Paulo.

He has packed plenty into his first 15 months at the club, too.

Thalys scored seven goals in his first season with the U17s, before following that up with eight goals in just 11 games the following campaign as he began to force his way into the U20s squad.

In 2022 alone he has been named the Player of the Tournament at the FAM Cup, an annual U17s competition in Brazil, and scored seven goals as Palmeiras won the U17s Brazilian Cup, with Thalys netting a stunning volley in their final win over Vasco da Gama.

Now with yet more individual honours tucked away following his displays at the CEE Cup, Thalys has eyes on the future.

“I dream of playing in the Palmeiras first team and one day play at the World Cup with Brazil,” he tells NXGN, while going onto explain that Neymar is hero because “he plays happily, he is always smiling, and this is the Brazilian style”.

Thalys certainly seems to have taken up that Brazilian style, both in his personality and the way he plays his football.

Now, he can focus on becoming the latest gem of the Palmeiras academy to become a superstar.

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