Not many 16-year-olds were watching the recently concluded World Cup with realistic hopes of becoming a major player in the next edition. But IndrikSigned earlier this month by Real Madrid, not any of the 16-year-old. His first step on the road to possibly playing in the 2026 World Cup for Brazil is the upcoming South American Under-20 Championship, which will be held in Colombia during January and February. It would seem strange for him to be involved in an under-20 competition – there is an under-17 tournament later in the year for which Endrick would also be eligible. But for the Palmeiras young man, this is nothing new.
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Sources have told ESPN that the youngster will join Madrid on an initial three-year contract with the option to extend by three years, for a transfer fee worth a total of €72m including variables and taxes. Asif’s development A year ago, when he was only 15 years old, he participated in the very prestigious Sao Paulo Junior Cup, a competition in which some of the players were already 20 years old.
Endrick went into business with barely a household name. By the end it was an internet sensation. Palmeiras won the trophy for the first time, and the quality and versatility of Andrek’s goals – an overhead kick from outside the penalty area, if you will allow it – marked him as a youngster of astonishing promise. He might even be the best young South American player to have grown up since Neymar or (whisper it) since Lionel Messi.
But it’s hard to whisper anything into the echo chamber of contemporary social media. Messi was stunning when he appeared in the South American Under-20 Championship – also in Colombia – at the start of 2005. But the planetary hype machine was less developed at the time. These days there is nowhere to hide. How do you protect Indrik from the expectations that might overwhelm the average person? Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira played it well. There was pressure on Ferreira to take Andric to the Club World Cup earlier this year. The coach resisted and said that the young man would be better served by a trip to Disneyland.
During the year, Ferreira noticed his prodigy, weighed the way Indrik was handling his global fame, graciously introduced him to the first team, and towards the end of the season, with a league title, unleashed him into the first team. And Andrek did not disappoint. He gave a series of cameos that alluded to greatness. He is a small left footed striker. Remarkably, his first goal came from a header. In addition to his individual skill and dazzling audacity, he has an understanding of space that allows him to attack the penalty area and head a shot past the keeper. It is precisely his range of talent that makes him so interesting.
He can do the glamorous, he can do the basics – dribbling, collecting, finishing the first time, and going into space. More than ever, his game will come under a microscope. Opponents will look for weaknesses. But it looks eerily complete. Long before his first-team debut, Endrique was already appearing on the front cover of Spanish daily sports newspapers. The reality of the global market applies. He now probably has a year and a half left with Palmeiras – and still counting. FIFA regulations prevent him from traveling abroad until he reaches the age of eighteen. That day will come in July 2024 when everything is set for him to join Real Madrid.
Andrek was at the top of almost every major European club’s wish list. But Real Madrid has always been ahead of Chelsea, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. They depended on his personal preference – perhaps in part due to the Spanish club’s audacity to spend big on Vinicius Junior even before the winger made his Flamengo debut. What seemed reckless at the time has since proven to be a masterstroke. Vinicius proved overwhelmingly successful – winning Real Madrid in the recent Champions League – and that certainly made the club more attractive in Andric’s eyes.
Brazil fans will see him in the senior national team’s yellow jersey on the road. Until then, the defending champions in the U-20 South American Championship will be out to show that the youngster can be contained and that the hype is not justified. All part of the game and part of the challenge now facing Indrik. The expectations bar is set very high. Can he jump over it?