At 17 years old, he is already being compared to Neymar and Pele. But Endrick, the teenager hailed as Brazilian football’s next great hope, says he doesn’t pay attention to the hype.
“I know no one can even touch the feet of Pele. He’s the King of football,” says the young forward, who just helped Sao Paulo club Palmeiras to a second straight Brazilian league title and will join Real Madrid next year when he turns 18.
“I just want to be Endrick. I want to show them who Endrick is,” he told AFP in an interview at an event with a new sponsor in Sao Paulo.
Compact, fast and ingenious with the ball, Endrick has already racked up an impressive list of accolades since making his professional debut at 16.
Besides two league trophies, he has inspired Palmeiras to the Brazilian Super Cup and Sao Paulo state championship. Last month, he became the youngest player to be called up to the national team since Ronaldo in 1994.
The striker, who signed with Real Madrid last year for a reported $65 million plus bonuses, comes along at a difficult moment in Brazilian football.
Five-time World Cup champions Brazil have not managed to hoist the trophy since 2002.
Critics in the land of the “beautiful game” say the generation led by Neymar has failed to live up to the glory days of Pele and Ronaldo.
The “Selecao” are currently a lowly sixth place in qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, after suffering the humiliation of three straight defeats, including their first-ever home loss in a qualifier to arch-rivals and reigning champions Argentina last month.
There is growing clamor for national team coach Fernando Diniz to make Endrick a starter and give him the number 9 of past Brazil greats such as Ronaldo and Tostao.
“A lot of players want to be number 9 on the national team. I don’t care about my number. I just want to be there and play,” says Endrick.
Will he live up to the hype when he joins Real Madrid in July?
Endrick already knows a thing or two about performing under pressure.
After turning heads in his debut season in 2022 — scoring three goals in seven matches to help Palmeiras to the title in the homestretch — he was in the spotlight playing his first full season this year.
He got off to a rocky start, scoring just four goals in his first 19 matches.
At one point, he was reduced to tears on the pitch, frustrated over his goal drought.
“It was a kind of unstable start to the season,” he says.
“Then I changed the little key in my head, and realized I was happy. I managed to help my team to the title, and I think I’ll help even more next year.”
The “little key” he needed to change, he says, was to stop reading what people wrote about him on social media and instead surround himself with family and friends.
He also stepped up his training outside practice, and started taking English and Spanish classes.
The effort paid off in the back half of the season, as Palmeiras surged past leaders Botafogo to claim the title in a heart-stopping end to the season.
Endrick scored six times in the last 10 matches, including a key brace against Botafogo and the goal that sealed the title for Palmeiras Wednesday.
“They say I was the hero, but I don’t think so. The whole team was the hero,” he says.
“I’m just happy to have helped the team I love.”
He is trying not to think about his upcoming move to Madrid with his parents and brother, to avoid “getting anxious,” he says.
He is also very aware of the racism his compatriot and future teammate Vinicius Junior has faced in Spain.
Endrick says he has faced racism in Brazil, too.
“I didn’t let it bother me. I kept up my game,” he says.
“I just want to do what makes me happiest: play football.”
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