Six South American stars who could transfer to Europe next

Europe had its first look at Palmeiras‘ and Brazil‘s Endrick during the FIFA dates and liked what it saw, with well-taken goals against both England and Spain. In the summer, of course, he moves to Real Madrid, and Europe can enjoy him every week.

Along with him, there were other South Americans who crossed the Atlantic to represent their national teams. A few have caught the eye, and may well be nurturing hopes of earning a move to a top European club.

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Jhon Arias, 26, MF, Fluminense / Colombia

Head of the list is Arias, who played in his side’s wins over Spain and Romania, scoring in the latter. It is perhaps surprising that he is still in South America, where he was the outstanding player last year with Fluminense of Brazil, the current continental champions. Manchester City comprehensively outgunned the side in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup, but Arias was outstanding in a losing cause, carrying the fight to his illustrious opponents.

What makes Arias especially interesting is his versatility. He can operate in either the midfield or front trio of a 4-3-3, as a winger, or tucked in as an all-round, attack-minded midfielder. A squat little figure, he is strong on the ball, excellent on the turn, combines well, runs at the defense, and well-able to score goals as well as set them up.

Perhaps his age counts against him. Now 26, he was plucked by Fluminense from relative obscurity in Colombian football. But he is now at his peak, and his recent displays for Colombia have boosted his confidence and allowed him to believe that he is not out of place among the elite.

Richard Ríos, 23, MF, Palmeiras / Colombia

Another Brazil-based Colombian taking rapid strides is the midfielder with an interesting backstory. Ríos was a futsal player and was discovered by Flamengo of Rio while playing in an international tournament. They moved him to the 11-a-side game, and loaned him to Mexico, where his progress was interrupted by injury.

Frustrated at lack of opportunities on his return to Brazil, he ripped up his contract with Flamengo and went to join Guarani, a traditional team from the state of São Paulo that had fallen on hard times. He stood out for them in the regional championship at the start of last year and was picked up by local giants Palmeiras where, thrown in at the deep end, he played an important role in the club winning the Brazilian Serie A.

At the unlikely age of 23, he was a strong candidate to be the revelation of the season and forced his way into the national team. These two matches were by far his best in a Colombia shirt. He came on at halftime against Spain and, operating wide on the right, got a grip on dangerous left-back Alejandro Grimaldo. He played the full 90 against Romania, setting up the goal for Arias with a cross from the right, and also tucking in and holding the center. Long-legged and dynamic, he looks to have a interesting future.

Bento, 24, GK, Athletico Paranaense / Brazil

Injuries to both Alisson and Ederson forced Brazil to play a rookie keeper in high-pressure games against England and Spain, and Bento came through the ordeal exceptionally well. Brazil has become a breeding ground for goalkeepers, and Athletico Paranaense can boast an especially impressive record. Their latest product, 24-year-old Bento, is tall, athletic, solid and sensible.

Against England he could perhaps have been criticized for not coming off his line enough to deal with crosses, but at least his option to stay on his line was decisive. However, against Spain, he had multiple opportunities to show off his virtues as a shot-stopper, producing a sequence of reflex saves and keeping his side in the game at times when they were in danger of being over-run.

Athletico were already counting on moving on Bento soon. Doing so well for the national team has certainly bumped up the fee.

Fabrício Bruno, 28, CB, Flamengo / Brazil

In front of Bento, the center-back Bruno also made a sound start to his international career. At the age of 28, his options are limited, but it seems that Marseille are interested in signing him from Flamengo of Brazil.

Not particularly elegant or talented on the ball, Bruno stands out for his combination of size and speed. He is a hulking figure who is quick across the ground, and he earned special praise from Luis Suárez after the great Uruguayan striker came up against him during last year’s spell with Grěmio. The three times that Spain scored on Tuesday were the first goals that a team containing Bruno had conceded this year.

Luciano Rodríguez, 20, FW, Liverpool / Uruguay

Rodríguez only had a couple of minutes on as a substitute at the end of Uruguay’s 2-1 loss to the Ivory Coast, but he had played all of the officially unrecognized game against the Basque Country a few days earlier, and there will surely be plenty more from him in the sky blue shirt.

The nickname of “The Uruguayan Mbappé” is a stretch, but the powerful striker was the star man in last year’s World Cup-winning Uruguay Under-20 team, claiming the winning goal in the final against Italy. Incredibly strong, Rodríguez can play in wide spaces but also has the intricacy to operate through the center.

For a player who spent 2022 in the Uruguayan second division, he is making remarkable progress; last year he also helped little Montevideo club Liverpool to their first national title. The City Group are interested, but they should face plenty of competition in the summer.

James Rodríguez, 32, AM, São Paulo / Colombia

Maybe European club football — and in particular LaLiga — has not seen the last of the Colombian. A decade after his star performances in the 2014 World Cup, Rodríguez is currently to be found in Brazil, where his relationship with São Paulo has not been an easy one.

Frustrated with a lack of opportunities, earlier this year he even considered tearing up his contract. His form for Colombia, meanwhile, has been magisterial. His appearance at halftime changed the game against Spain last week, and he orchestrated the play from deep in fine style against Romania. Asked about his future, he made no effort to hide a desire to return to Spain, and so, even at the age of 32, there could be more European adventures in the nomadic career of Rodríguez.