The football academies in Brazil are the masters in producing attacking talents. Neymar, Rodrygo Goes, Gabigol, and the list continues to grow – the emergence of new talents is like routine work for Santos. Not so long ago, Kaio Jorge became the best player in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2019, the world heard about a 15-year-old Alison Matheus and now the 17-year-old Marcos Leonardo is creating waves on the shores of Europe.
The 🇧🇷 fans are desperately looking for a number 9 and scouts report that from Bahia, a 17-year old boy named Marcos Leonardo is emerging as a complete forward and since the age of 11, he has not stopped scoring. I am sure @realmadriden are keeping an eye on him. pic.twitter.com/GpGePse48y
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) September 27, 2020
Marcos Leonardo was born in Itapetinga, Bahia on May 2, 2003. His father, Marcos Coringa, was also a footballer and a forward. He would only appear in amateur tournaments in his native Bahia.
Coringa was a big influencer in the life of Marcos Leonardo and he learned his footballing lessons under the watchful eyes of Coringa at the ‘Athlete for Christ’ – a program, which helps underprivileged children.
Coringa and others noticed the talent of Marcos Leonardo and decided to move to Taubaté, São Paulo in May 2014 with the intent to join the set-ups of the bigger football academies.
Santos Football Club noticed the talent and skill of Leonardo and before other bigger clubs advance further, they took Leonardo under their wings.
Leonardo joined Santos’ youth setup in August 2014, after a trial.
While speaking to Santos’ website Gustavo Roma, the club’s Under-13s coach said, “I noticed a very strong nose for the goal, that he was opportunistic and always well-positioned.”
“He is a very good finisher, he always tries to be present in every game, is very mobile and intense, with very good intuition. He is not static waiting for the ball to arrive, he moves to find the best position to be able to finish. That’s why he scores so many goals.”
The Goal stated, “As the lead central striker within the club’s youth system, his goalscoring record is unrivaled, with many hopeful he can go onto surpass the achievements of Gabigol and succeed in the European game as well as in South America.”
In 2019, he signed his first professional contract with the club, agreeing to a three-year deal.
In 2020, Marcos Leonardo was one of the five youth graduates registered for the year’s Campeonato Paulista.
He made his professional – and Serie A – debut on August, 2020, coming on as a second-half substitute for Yeferson Soteldo in a 1–0 away win against Sport Recife.
The Goal stated, “At the time, then-manager Jesualdo Ferreira referred to him as ‘the greatest jewel of the Santos academy’, and he has lived up to that billing with a series of impressive cameos off the bench.”
On September 15, 2020, Marcos Leonardo made his Copa Libertadores debut by replacing Raniel in a 0–0 home draw against Club Olimpia. He scored his first professional goal on 4 October, netting his team’s third in a 3–2 away win against Goias.
As the Goal described, “Pulling away from his marker at the back post, Leonardo showed the perfect striker’s instinct to meet a low cross on the edge of the six-yard box and send the goalkeeper the wrong way with a first-time finish.”
One month later, Marcos Leonardo scored the winner in a 2–1 home success over Defensa y Justicia, becoming the sixth-youngest to score in the Libertadores, and the fourth-youngest Brazilian.
Marcos Leonardo represented Brazil at the under-17 level, playing in the 2019 Montaigu Tournament and UEFA Development Tournament.
At such a young age, Marcos Leonardo is already making his mark on the first team, after finding the net on over 100 occasions since joining the club as an 11-year-old.
Cuca, the current manager of Santos is very impressed with Leonardo and he believes that Leonardo would be the future number 9 of the Selecao and he expects Leonardo to go a long way.
— Marcos Leonardo (@M_leonardo09) November 14, 2020
Cuca told the reporters, “Of course, Marcos Leonardo is going to be a great player, but he is only 17. He is still growing mentally and physically. We cannot throw a boy like that in to lead the team.”
Leonardo is a project under development and already, it is expected, the eyes of the big clubs in Europe have started to track this talent alongside Kaio Jorge and Alison Matheus.
Recently, Real Madrid have become the best club in Europe to nurture talents from Brazil and already, we can see how Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes have become impactful players for the Los Blancos. Meanwhile, Reinier Jesus is waiting to showcase his talent very soon.
For the Brazilians, right now, Santiago Bernabeu is the best location – it is almost like their second home, where the Brazilians receive enough respect and loved very much. Most importantly, the mentor for the young guns is Raul Gonzalez, who has been impressive in nurturing talents in Castilla.
Leonardo’s contract runs until 2022, it includes a €100 million (£90m/$119m) release clause – a fee that, if met, would represent the largest ever received by Alvinegro Praiano and Real Madrid are capable enough to pay the amount.
Florentino Perez is a big fan of talents from Brazil and one can expect, he might sign Leonardo very soon.