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Who is Andrey Santos? What Chelsea can expect from Brazilian midfielder

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Chelsea are closing in a deal to sign Brazilian midfielder Andrey Santos from Vasco da Gama as the latest part of their ongoing quest to sign the game’s best young talents.

The likes of Manchester City, Barcelona and Newcastle United have all chased the 18-year-old but it appears as though Chelsea and manager Graham Potter have done enough to get a deal done, agreeing to a move which could cost them up to £20m.

But who is Andrey Santos and what makes him such a special talent?

Introduced to futsal at the age of four in an attempt to lose weight, Santos quickly fell in love with the game and initially began as a defender, where it was soon decided his talents were wasted.

In the Vasco academy, Santos was moved to midfield. He has admitted he loved the move because it allowed him to get more involved in scoring goals, while his mother celebrated what she believed was a jump-up in value.

A 17-year-old Santos was given his senior debut in March 2021 and he’d go on to make his first start right at the end of that season, but the occasion was drowned out by boos from supporters at the end of a campaign which saw Vasco fail to return to Brazil’s top flight.

In an attempt to kick-start a new era, manager Ze Ricardo took a shining to Santos and made him a permanent starter, and the midfielder hasn’t looked back since. 2022 was a stellar year for the midfielder, who became the youngest goalscorer in club history when he netted against Nautico in June.

At international level, Santos began with Brazil’s Under-16s in 2019 and has since featured for both the Under-18s and Under-20s.

Santos’ primary position is as a typical central midfielder – the number eight role, in the modern game.

With a 5’11 frame, Santos takes the role of a box-to-box powerhouse. His lanky stature and impressive stamina see him charge around the field in an attempt to impact things at both ends of the field.

Given a lot of freedom to roam around, Santos enjoys carrying the ball forward and keeping things ticking with simple, yet necessary passes to evade pressure and allow his more-creative teammates to shine.

Importantly, Santos has not forgotten his defensive roots. Occasionally used as a loan defensive midfielder, he is happy to do the ugly work and has forged an impressive reputation as an efficient tackler, both in the air and on the ground.

Despite not being the biggest of midfielders, Santos makes his frame go a long way. His long legs allow him to cover ground very quickly, helping him get back defensively but also to advance the ball in possession. In quick transitions, he’s in his element.

Vasco have often used Santos as their primary outlet when on the counter, trusting the teenager to charge the length of the field to put them on top. He’s not an elite dribbler but, again, uses his frame to his advantage to get the upper hand.

On the ball, Santos likes a simple, tempo-ticking pass. He’s brought comparisons to Sergio Busquets for his measured approach to games and his preference to play the conductor, rather than the creator.

“I’m very focused, serious and with a strong winner’s mentality,” Santos told Globo Esporte of his strengths. “I don’t let my teammates settle down. I’m always looking to evolve.

“My best characteristics are my ball output in the build-up and my marking. I have quality with my passes and my vision of the game.”

As mentioned, Santos’ use of the ball is impressive but not devastating. When charging forwards towards the box, he doesn’t boast the defence-unlocking pass that would see his assist numbers fly up.

Santos cannot be accused of playing safe, however, and always knows where his teammates are on the pitch. If they are in space, the teenager is happy to give over possession and the headlines that come with goals and assists.

On a sporting level, Santos comes from a generation that grew up watching Cristiano Ronaldo dominate football and he admits to basing his work rate on the Portugal international.

As far as his playstyle goes, Santos has previously named three midfielders who he attempts to emulate on the pitch.

“I really like Casemiro, Bruno Guimaraes and Thiago Alcantara,” he told LANCE. “These guys are phenomenal. I look up to them a lot.”

Nene, fellow Vasco midfielder and former PSG star: “It doesn’t even seem like he’s this young. He has an incredible maturity in training, it seems like he has been with us for many years.

“He has a vision of the game, a lot of quality and likes to break lines. He is already in the Brazil Under-20s team and who knows, maybe soon he will be shining in the senior national team? He will be a great player.”

Juninho, former Vasco midfielder and Lyon director: “Physically, he is a monster. Without the ball, his participation in the game is total. I wanted to see his GPS, because he doesn’t stop! And technically, he’s way above the others.

“He’s not going to be better than me, he’s going to be much better than me. He is a much more complete player. At 18, I didn’t play half as much as he does, I’m not ashamed to say that.”

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