Matheus Franca: Scouting Newcastle United’s Brazilian wonderkid target

Anthony Onifade
By Anthony Onifade
11 Min Read

Newcastle United are reportedly interested in signing Flamengo’s Brazilian wonderkid Mathues Franca.

The Magpies have been watching the 18-year-old attacking midfielder for a period of time, and according to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, submitted an increased bid for the youngster – worth a £17.6m total package has been turned down by the Brazilian Serie A giants.

It has been reported that Newcastle wants to add the teenager to their ranks as part of a project rebuilding at St James’ Park, but the Geordies will not overpay for the wonderkid. The latest bid was £3.6m more than their first offer. The midfielder is reportedly valued at €25 million and it will be interesting to see if Newcastle decide to come forward with an improved offer before the January window closes.

Who is Matheus Franca?

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Born in Brazil’s capital Rio de Janeiro, Franca joined Flamengo’s youth academy at the age of 12, after being one of the bright products at Olaria based in the country’s capital city. Within the club’s youth setup, he has been earmarked as one of their greatest young talents alongside Lazaro, after Vinicius Junior who joined Real Madrid in 2018.

He made his professional debut for the club in December 2021 in the Brazilian Serie A against Santos at the famous Maracan stadium, replacing Everton Ribeiro in the 78th minute. And 2022 is the year he made his breakthrough at the club, registering six goals in 24 games for Flamengo and becoming one of the league’s best young teenagers, aiding the club in their 2022 Copa Libertadores triumph and in the Brazilian domestic cup Copa do Brasil – which is equivalent to England’s FA Cup and Spain’s Copa Del Rey.

At the international level, he made his debut for the Brazil Under-16s going on to make six appearances before being promoted to the Under-17 setup without making an appearance, but was recently and deservedly called up to the Under-20s side for the 2023 South American U-20 Championship but his club asked for a release in order to play in the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup which begins on 1 February.

Matheus Franca – Style of play

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The 18-year-old is a rather versatile player, capable of playing anywhere across the attacking positions and in an advanced midfield role lending to his stunning creative attributes and unique attacking class at such a tender age. However, age is no boundary in Brazil and Franca is establishing himself as a key component in Flamengo’s team both for the present and the future. It’s no wonder they’ve set quite a reasonable release clause in his contract as they see him as a key player for the foreseeable.

The Brazilian has great speed and can certainly play on the wing as he did in his youth career. Being right-footed, he would often feature on the left-wing cutting inside. However, he is most effective through the centre. Whether as a false-nine or a more attacking number 10, Matheus is able to dictate the attack and constantly create space and chances.

The teenager’s game is often built around his intelligence and awareness, rather than solely on his speed and footballing skills. He is an 18-year-old footballer playing like one entering his prime. His involvement is the glue that has allowed his teams to attack with success. While playing as a centre-forward or attacking midfielder, Matheus will find gaps within the defensive organisation to receive the ball before progressing it further.

His understanding of where to place himself in order to disrupt an opponent’s defensive structure is outstanding, especially for a player of his age. Bearing in mind, he’s only played just a season of first-team football at Flamengo.

After receiving a pass in between the lines or in the half-space, he’ll quickly turn and play a teammate in the wide areas all in one move, owing to his tremendous low centre of gravity and flexibility. The simple movement to make himself available between lines and play his teammate wide allows his team to progress from the midfield line to the final third verve and intention.

His vision and passing ability are also impressive traits in his game. The freedom he has to roam centrally and get involved in possession allows him to showcase these abilities and create very good chances for his teammates or even for himself.  In addition, strength is a significant part of França’s game. In various scenarios, he is able to use his body effectively to either maintain or win possession.

His statistics are impressive, especially given his age. Last season, he registered 11 G/A (six goals, 5 assists) contributions in his 28 appearances. As someone who predominantly played as an attacking midfielder, his numbers are seriously impressive for a teenager playing his first full season in senior football.

Matheus also constantly looks to switch the focus of the attack. He is able to play long balls and looks for them quite often. This is extremely helpful in getting away from pressure and attacking space. The 18-year-old is simply a carefree orchestrator in the Flamengo setup. As the side’s main hub of creativity, he is tasked in being imaginative and inventive with his actions meaning he is given much freedom to express himself and positional freedom too. Wherever he feels he can hurt the opposition, he’ll be there immediately to exploit the gaps or spaces.

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One area to improve when distributing the ball over a fair distance, however, is driving the balls more rather than floating them. In some cases, Matheus will float it just a little too much, allowing time for the defence to shift over.

Matheus França’s movement is very good in creating space for his teammates. As Flamengo progress into the opposition half, he’ll often drift wide if he feels his teammate is in a better position to exploit spaces. There are two main reasons for doing this. First, he gives himself a better angle and is able to see the pitch better once he receives it. More importantly, though, he’ll drags the defenders over and create a channel of space for his teammate to run into.

Franca can also play a key role in transition as his vision and passing allow him to launch dangerous counterattacks. He possesses great attacking variation, making Flamengo a devastating attacking team. They were amongst the top scorers in the Brazilian Serie A last year, registering 60 goals – the third best in the division – despite finishing in fifth place.

And Franca has proven a huge part of their attacking endeavour. He is very effective in the final third and his movement off the ball sees him attacking with great understanding and getting into dangerous areas. Whether as a centre-forward or an attacking midfielder, he will constantly look to get on the ball and make runs.

Matheus França’s abilities make him a very dynamic and effective threat in attack. He is able to create chances both with and without the ball, becoming very intelligent and free with his movement and passing. While his awareness and technique allow him to create space and chances against lower blocks, he is also able to play in transition with his quick thinking and speed. It’s no surprise that clubs like Newcastle United are interested in his services, as he’d absolutely thrive in a possession-based and positional system which Eddie Howe has tremendously implemented at St James’ Park.

His optimal roles – roles which make him more useful – are either as a false nine or an attacking number 10. While Matheus Franca can play on the wing or as a traditional centre-forward, this would at times limit his creative ability and involvement in possession, but with more coaching and refining within different tactical setups, his influence could indeed increase within those positions. When able to roam centrally and get involved in earlier stages of possession as well as the final third, his contribution is at it’s most devastating.

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