By Gabriel Pessoa - beIN SPORTS
The 60th edition of the Copa Libertadores officially gets underway on Wednesday with the beginning of the group stage, and the six sides representing Brazil will all be looking to secure a 19th title for the country that brought the world Pele, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
And while the three legends mentioned above are no longer dazzling crowds on the biggest stage, that's not to say Brazil isn't still producing world-class talent.
With that in mind, we take a look at five Brazilian players who have the potential to shine as brightly as the Seleção's yellow shirt in this season's Copa Libertadores.
Age: 29 | Team: Flamengo | Position: Attacking Midfield/Right Wing
After a brief stint playing in the UAE with Al-Ahli, Éverton Ribeiro returned to the Brazilian Serie A with Flamengo in June 2017.
Ribeiro displayed his knack for scoring beautiful goals last season as he found hit the target seven times in helping Flamengo finish second in the Brasileirao.
Ribeiro is an extremely resourceful player who can conduct plays with either foot; his preference for his left peg only becomes apparent when he winds up for a shot from beyond the 18-yard mark. And typical of most Brazilian-based players of his diminutive stature (5’7”), he is technically proficient on the ball.
Although Vinicius Junior and Paqueta have departed for Europe, Flamengo remains a South American force thanks to string of astute off-season signings, with Gabriel Barbosa, Rafinha and Rodrigo Caio all having recently joined the Rio de Janeiro side. Look for Éverton Ribeiro to continue orchestrating the midfield of an already extremely talented Brazilian side.
Age: 27 | Team: Palmeiras | Position: Midfield
Don't let Dudu’s size fool you.
While the Palmeiras star stands at a mere 5’4”, his contributions to the team make him a giant.
For all the skill and talent you’d come to expect of a Brazilian number seven, Dudu also possesses bags of strength and grit - characteristics that made him a vital cog in Palmeiras’ success throughout the 2018 domestic campaign. Whether playing on the right or left wing, look for Dudu to cause headaches for opposing teams.
Dudu has a habit of consistently appearing in the right place, at the right time, and while his aptitude for pouncing on loose balls in the box and scoring tap-in goals seems only natural, he is also surprisingly accomplished at finishing with his head.
But it’s not all about scoring; Dudu is also happy to chip in with his fair share of assists by whipping in dangerous crosses from set-pieces and open play.
Age: 38 | Team: Cruzeiro | Position: Goalkeeper
Brazil has not always been synonymous with top goalkeeping talent, but that’s not to say the samba nation hasn’t churned out a safe pair of hands here and there.
This is certainly the case for Fabio, who has maintained a level of consistency between the pipes for years, and, for reasons that are beyond this writer, has only made three appearances for the Canarinho during his extensive career.
Cruzeiro será o primeiro time brasileiro a ter um jogo transmitido via Facebook pela Conmebol Libertadores.— Cruzeiro Esporte Clube (@Cruzeiro) March 5, 2019
Confira os detalhes em: https://t.co/X4XbgNKoaH#NasBatalhasComOCruzeiro #ReconquistarSantiago pic.twitter.com/7VcRmOzENa
Fabio has defended Cruzeiro’s net since 2005, during which time has won three domestic league titles, two Brazilian Cup titles, and one Copa America title. Over the past sixteen rotations around the sun, Fabio has consistently been ranked among the Brazilian Serie A’s top three goalkeepers.
The team from Minas-Gerais was knocked out by eventual finalist Boca Juniors in last season’s quarter-final. Cruzeiro is expected to qualify from a relatively easy group B that also includes Emelec, Huracan and Deportivo Lara. Fabio is sure to lead the way throughout the team’s 2019 campaign.
Age: 22 | Team: Gremio | Position: Left Wing
Forewarning: Everton will nutmeg your favorite defender, or leave him on his backside by cutting in left from the right wing. The defender will know what’s coming, but will be powerless to do anything about it; Everton can turn on the jets at will and leave opponents in the dust.
Dripping with creativity, Everton in full flow is a joy to behold. If you’re a neutral fan, have the popcorn at the ready and enjoy. This is the kind of player fans associate Brazilian soccer with.
Congrats on the call-up Everton! We look forward to seeing you represent the Brazil national team in upcoming friendlies. The yellow shirt will look just as good on you as blue and black! 💙🇧🇷🖤 pic.twitter.com/dB355bsv5o— Grêmio FBPA English (@gremio_en) February 28, 2019
Gremio will be looking to wash the bad taste of losing to River Plate at the semi-final stage last season, and Everton could be the palette cleanser they need to go the distance this time around.
Age: 18 | Team: Flamengo | Position: Forward
World, meet Lincoln. The 18-year-old striker may have only gotten a few minutes on the pitch last year but early signs show he is ready for the big stage.
Vinicius’ former partner in Brazil’s U-20 squad is gifted beyond his years (check out his highlights reel if you don’t believe me).
Lincoln rides tackles with ease and displays the maturity of a veteran player. A very unselfish striker, Lincoln is not averse to providing a final, killer pass instead of shooting at goal himself. Pair that with a calmness inside the opponents’ box and you have yourself a striker’s formula for success.
The last time a star came out of Flamengo (Vinicius) it may have seemed out of nowhere. This time, if a European powerhouse comes knocking at Flamengo’s door, you will get to witness why that is.