Brazilian football is on the rise, with a host of young players making a name for themselves both at club level and on the international stage.
Neymar is the most high profile, with Santos’ attacking-midfield sensation earning comparisons with Lionel Messi. A move to Europe would appear to be only a matter of time.
Alexandre Pato has already made his name outside of South America, impressing with AC Milan since his arrival in 2007, whilst Ganso and Lucas Moura are names to watch out for leading up to the next World Cup in their homeland of Brazil.
But, for legendary striker Ronaldo, it’s another player who could follow in his illustrious footsteps.
“Leandro Damiao, from Internacional de Porto Alegre,” responed the former Real Madrid star when asked to apply ‘the new Ronaldo’ tag to one of the current Selecao crop by FIFA.com.
“He’s tall, strong, a very good goalscorer, a threat in the air and skilful with both feet. He’ll play a big part in 2014.”
So just what do we know about Damiao, and how genuine is the suggestion that he could follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps on the world stage?
At 22-years-old, Damiao is still relatively young, although Ronaldo went to his first World Cup (without playing) as a teenager in 1994.
And, unlike the great man, Damiao is also yet to test his skills in European football. A relatively late starter, he didn’t play his first senior match at the Beira-Rio in 2010.
However, success came quickly, helping the club to a Copa Libertadores title after breaking into the side at the end of the season.
The following year, with 38 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions, an international call came, and Damiao now appears to be on the road to success.
It may come away from Internacional, however.
“There will come a day when I will play in Europe,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It will be very important for me to learn and improve. For my style and strength, I think I could adapt to any major league in Europe. But it seems to me that strikers are most appreciated in Italy and England.”
Appreciated he certainly would be, with an uncanny ability to find himself in the right place at the right time in the penalty box – much like Ronaldo.
There are a number of other similarities too, most notably a rocket of a shot from distance, a fine turn of pace both with and without the ball and strength to both win battles in the air and hold-off a defender.
A quick glance at videos on YouTube also highlights a number of additional elements the player has to his game. Excellent in the air, Damiao can score all kinds of goals with either foot, and has plenty of skill at his disposal like most of the current samba star crop.
With just one goal in five games for Brazil though, his record on the international stage needs a bit of polishing, particularly when you consider that Ronaldo hit 62 in 98 games over a 17-year spell between 1994 and 2011.
The ‘new Ronaldo’ tag might also be a burden that Damiao would do well to avoid, with the weight of expectation massive for someone to follow in the footsteps of the 35-year-old forward, who retired last year.
The all-time leading goalscorer in FIFA World Cup history, Ronaldo led his country to the final in 1998, and was the difference-maker when they lifted the trophy in 2002. His standing within the game is simply unquestionable.
And, at 22, it could be all too much for Damiao, who only broke into the national side last year and still has plenty to prove away from his country.
On reflection, it’s fair to say that Damiao is not the new Ronaldo. Nobody is. But, he might just be the closest thing they have to the legend, and could be the man who makes all the difference in 2014.
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