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The new jewels

Cassio, Lucas, Alexandre Pato, Renato Augusto and the twins Rafael and Fabio are the most promising talents in Brazil. Who are they? Can they one day replace Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho?

Gremio have bounced back in style after spending 2005 season in the Brazilian second division. The former Copa Libertadores champions, where a certain Luiz Felipe Scolari made his name in coaching, finished fourth last year in their first season back in the top flight, thus earning them a return to Libertadores action.
Their resurrection has coincided with the emergence of Lucas, another of Brazil’s hopes for the future. Lucas, full name Lucas Pezzini Leiva, is something of a rarity in modern Brazilian football, a central midfielder who can distribute the ball well and get forward and join the attack. He plays a somewhat similar role to Dunga in the 1994 and 1998 World Cup teams, but with somewhat more finesse. “I try to model myself on various players. Each one has a quality and virtue. I try to take a little bit of each one so that I can be the best at everything,” he said.
Lucas captained the Brazilian team that won the South American U-20 Championship in Paraguay, scoring four goals himself thanks to a combination of his excellent timing and powerful shots. His performances have already earned him two call-ups to the senior side.
Born in Dourados in the western state of Matto Grosso do Sul, Lucas was snapped up by Gremio after impressing in a junior match against them for his hometown side. He made his professional debut when he was thrown into the fray of Brazil’s ruthless second division as an 18-year-old in October 2005.
He quickly settled in, helped Gremio win promotion – they clinched their place in a remarkable match in which they beat Nautico 1-0 despite having four players sent off – and has not looked back since.