More skill than Endrick, Messi comparison - The rise of Chelsea and Arsenal target Estevao Willian

Estevao Willian
Chelsea have reportedly bid for Estevao Willian of Palmeiras -Credit:RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images

"Estevao is a star in the making and every day, this is becoming more of a reality."

Those are the words of Brazilian football expert Guilherme Goya, who closely followed Estevao Willian’s development and progress at Palmeiras. The 17-year-old appears set to follow in the footsteps of Arsenal star Gabriel Jesus, becoming the latest academy product to head for Europe after shining at the Brazilian club.

Born in Franca, Sao Paulo, Estevao played futsal from an early age before being picked up by Cruzeiro at nine years old. Although 364 miles separated Franca from Belo Horizonte, where Cruzeiro are based, there was no stopping Estevao, who left his family behind to fulfil his dreams.

He quickly stood out at Cruzeiro and it wasn’t long before he was being called Messinho. The teenager was obviously compared to the Argentinian star for his ability with the ball and skills he developed from his days playing futsal.

Just one year after joining, his sacrifice started to pay off when he signed his first contract with Nike, becoming the youngest Brazilian player to do so. At the age of 14, he was offered his first contract by Cruzeiro but he couldn’t turn down Palmeiras’ offer and returned to Sao Paulo.

The decision was made on the back of disagreements between the club and his representatives, which prompted concern over whether that could impact his development. "He showed great maturity on the pitch and put everything behind him, despite things that were happening in the media with Cruzeiro," Goya explained to

"Estevao had a good structure at Palmeiras’ youth team which enabled him to develop technically and physically. He always played above his age group and won countless titles with the youth team."

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His impressive displays during the Copinha, a cup competition for the under-20s team, caught the eye of first-team head coach Abel Ferreira. The Portuguese boss called Estevao to multiple training sessions and he was eventually handed his senior debut on the final day of the Brasileirao 2023, where Palmeiras were crowned league champions despite a 1-1 draw with his former club, Cruzeiro.

He has featured in all the opening six games so far this season, and Goya has explained what sets him apart from other players of his age. "Since arriving at Palmeiras, Estevao has become more complete as a player, he has shown a lot of maturity playing for the first team and has not felt the weight and pressure of games," Goya explained.

"His dribbling and technical quality has led him to become one of the team’s main creators. What you see in terms of his technical ability is that he’s well above what you’d expect for someone his age. Estevao is one of the most skilled players to ever come through at Palmeiras, more than Endrick and Gabriel Jesus. With the ball at his feet, he stands out for his quick dribbling as well as having the ability to improvise.

"As an attacking midfielder, he is able to provide an important dynamic to Abel’s team, as he can play down the right wing and also in midfield, becoming another option in the creative sector, as he has a good ability to find important passes. After joining the first team, he has shown an interesting tactical approach to offensive plays.

"In one of his three goals this season, he exploited empty spaces at the back of the defensive line and often met crosses from his teammates. He is also a talented free-kick, penalty and corner taker."

His impressive displays have not only caught the attention of Premier League clubs but also of La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, this has not come as a surprise to those who have followed him from the very start.

"Everyone who followed him during his time with the youth teams had the expectation that he could reach the very top teams in world football," Goya stated. "In the last decade, Jesus was a key figure in the Verdao academy, and now the club are seeing the success of Endrick, Estevao and other names such as Luis Guilherme.

"Estevao is one of those players who has the talent to fit into any major league in the world. Initially, I see La Liga as a more favoured league for him, which would allow him more space to develop his game through dribbling and deep passing. I see similarities to the Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo.

"The Palmeiras wonderkid is also fully capable of enduring intense games like those in the Premier League. He knows how to play in offensive transition and has the ability to overcome opponents in a short space, getting these characteristics from futsal. Possessing awareness of the game allows him to adapt when it comes to individual plays but he also has a good pass to help in collective construction.

"Finding deep passes for his attacking teammates is also another strength. Estevao has the potential to be one of the best dribblers in the Brazilian league and it’s natural that he chooses to individualise his moves in certain challenges where he feels more comfortable.

"Having that maturity also allows him to know when to make individual moves and when he needs to play collectively. Since becoming a professional, it has become clear that, with Abel, he must understand the collective aspects of the team.

"The youngster can play as a number 10 and on the wing and his personality shines through on the pitch. He is not intimidated by his opponents and knows how to adapt to different contexts. Developing physically to meet the demands of European football, I believe he could arrive in Europe with the potential to even become a protagonist in Champions League games in the upcoming years."

With Estevao becoming the latest and biggest promise for Palmeiras after Endrick, he’s destined for a similar outcome to his teammate. But being one of the wealthiest clubs in Brazil, they are in no rush to part ways with the winger.

Verdao boss Abel has recently pleaded to president Leila Pereira to keep the teenager for a few more years, while describing Estevao as 'unlike anything he’s seen.' Chelsea are one club who are claimed to have bid for his signature, while Arsenal have also been linked.

"A sale along the same lines as that of Endrick to Real Madrid is expected," Goya claimed. "No matter how high the value of his release clause (£39m) is, European clubs know that it is more advantageous to pay the fee to have the player now than to sign him after he makes the 'jump' to European football."