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?
Few shirts carry as much of a burden as the Flamengo number ten. The wearer will inevitably be compared to Zico, who made the shirt his own during his nearly 20 years with the club. But it has not been a problem for 19-year-old Renato Augusto.
Less than one year after being drafted into the team, Renato has given Flamengo supporters hope that they may have a new player worthy of the famous shirt. Regarded as the best player to emerge from the club’s junior divisions for several years, Renato recently signed a five-year contract with a EUR 30 million buy-out clause – clearly aimed at foreign clubs – for anybody who wants to take him before than.
Renato’s first-team debut was less than auspicious, as it as came in the 4-1 defeat by Parana in the Brazilian championship last year. At the time, his trip to the training sessions meant squeezing into one of Rio de Janeiro’s mind-numbingly overcrowded buses. But he quickly tasted success in two-legged final of the Copa Brasil, helping Flamengo to a 3-0 aggregate win and place in this year’s Copa Libertadores.
Since then, Renato Augusto’s passing ability has made him the brains of the team, ousting the experienced Juninho Paulista, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002. He has since bought himself a car, though not one of the expensive imports favored by his fellow professionals. “A lot of things have changed, people recognize me in street. But I try to get on with my life in the same way,” he said.
Like many Brazilian players, Renato started out in futsal, joining Flamengo in 2001 as a 13-year-old. He is not short of ambition. “Today, the Flamengo nymber ten shirt is Zico’s shirt and I’m happy to wear it. But I want to put my name in history in the same way that he did,” he said. “There’s nothing like the Flamengo support. You just have to look at the stands – nothing can explain the emotion that you feel.”