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Who is Andrey Santos? What Chelsea can expect from Brazilian midfielder

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Chelsea are closing in a deal to sign Brazilian midfielder Andrey Santos from Vasco da Gama as the latest part of their ongoing quest to sign the game’s best young talents.

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The likes of Manchester City, Barcelona and Newcastle United have all chased the 18-year-old but it appears as though Chelsea and manager Graham Potter have done enough to get a deal done, agreeing to a move which could cost them up to £20m.

But who is Andrey Santos and what makes him such a special talent?

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Introduced to futsal at the age of four in an attempt to lose weight, Santos quickly fell in love with the game and initially began as a defender, where it was soon decided his talents were wasted.

In the Vasco academy, Santos was moved to midfield. He has admitted he loved the move because it allowed him to get more involved in scoring goals, while his mother celebrated what she believed was a jump-up in value.

A 17-year-old Santos was given his senior debut in March 2021 and he’d go on to make his first start right at the end of that season, but the occasion was drowned out by boos from supporters at the end of a campaign which saw Vasco fail to return to Brazil’s top flight.

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In an attempt to kick-start a new era, manager Ze Ricardo took a shining to Santos and made him a permanent starter, and the midfielder hasn’t looked back since. 2022 was a stellar year for the midfielder, who became the youngest goalscorer in club history when he netted against Nautico in June.

At international level, Santos began with Brazil’s Under-16s in 2019 and has since featured for both the Under-18s and Under-20s.

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Santos’ primary position is as a typical central midfielder – the number eight role, in the modern game.

With a 5’11 frame, Santos takes the role of a box-to-box powerhouse. His lanky stature and impressive stamina see him charge around the field in an attempt to impact things at both ends of the field.

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Given a lot of freedom to roam around, Santos enjoys carrying the ball forward and keeping things ticking with simple, yet necessary passes to evade pressure and allow his more-creative teammates to shine.

Importantly, Santos has not forgotten his defensive roots. Occasionally used as a loan defensive midfielder, he is happy to do the ugly work and has forged an impressive reputation as an efficient tackler, both in the air and on the ground.

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Despite not being the biggest of midfielders, Santos makes his frame go a long way. His long legs allow him to cover ground very quickly, helping him get back defensively but also to advance the ball in possession. In quick transitions, he’s in his element.

Vasco have often used Santos as their primary outlet when on the counter, trusting the teenager to charge the length of the field to put them on top. He’s not an elite dribbler but, again, uses his frame to his advantage to get the upper hand.

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On the ball, Santos likes a simple, tempo-ticking pass. He’s brought comparisons to Sergio Busquets for his measured approach to games and his preference to play the conductor, rather than the creator.

“I’m very focused, serious and with a strong winner’s mentality,” Santos told Globo Esporte of his strengths. “I don’t let my teammates settle down. I’m always looking to evolve.

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“My best characteristics are my ball output in the build-up and my marking. I have quality with my passes and my vision of the game.”

As mentioned, Santos’ use of the ball is impressive but not devastating. When charging forwards towards the box, he doesn’t boast the defence-unlocking pass that would see his assist numbers fly up.

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Santos cannot be accused of playing safe, however, and always knows where his teammates are on the pitch. If they are in space, the teenager is happy to give over possession and the headlines that come with goals and assists.

On a sporting level, Santos comes from a generation that grew up watching Cristiano Ronaldo dominate football and he admits to basing his work rate on the Portugal international.

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As far as his playstyle goes, Santos has previously named three midfielders who he attempts to emulate on the pitch.

“I really like Casemiro, Bruno Guimaraes and Thiago Alcantara,” he told LANCE. “These guys are phenomenal. I look up to them a lot.”

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Nene, fellow Vasco midfielder and former PSG star: “It doesn’t even seem like he’s this young. He has an incredible maturity in training, it seems like he has been with us for many years.

“He has a vision of the game, a lot of quality and likes to break lines. He is already in the Brazil Under-20s team and who knows, maybe soon he will be shining in the senior national team? He will be a great player.”

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Juninho, former Vasco midfielder and Lyon director: “Physically, he is a monster. Without the ball, his participation in the game is total. I wanted to see his GPS, because he doesn’t stop! And technically, he’s way above the others.

“He’s not going to be better than me, he’s going to be much better than me. He is a much more complete player. At 18, I didn’t play half as much as he does, I’m not ashamed to say that.”

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EPL

Fabio Paratici opens up on Antonio Conte’s Tottenham exit & provides update on manager search

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Tottenham Hotspur managing director of football Fabio Paratici has discussed the decision to part ways with head coach Antonio Conte.

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Spurs reached a mutual agreement for Conte to depart the club on Sunday night following a disappointing run of results.

Conte oversaw exits in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and UEFA Champions League this season despite high hopes of ending the club’s 15-year trophy drought.

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In his personal life, Conte lost three close friends – Spurs fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone, former Italy colleague Gianluca Vialli and Serie A legend Sinisa Mihajlovic – while he had to undergo emergency surgery on his gallbladder at the start of February.

Speaking to Tottenham club channels, Paratici leaned on these reasons as to why Conte’s reign ended so sourly.

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“About Antonio, we know how difficult this season was for him personally. Gian Piero died, Vialli and Mihajlovic [died], the surgery, the club supported him a lot about this and everyone was close with each other. But we arrived to this mutual agreement, and I think the decision we made was the right decision to everyone,” Paratici said.

Paratici went on to talk about interim manager Cristian Stellini – Conte’s former assistant who took charge of Tottenham in his absence this year – as well as speculation over a permanent successor.

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“So Cristian managed the team even when Antonio was sick this season and was good. He has a lot of experience as a second and even first coach in the past. We have Ryan Mason who can help him a lot because he’s been part of this club for a long time, he knows everything about this club and this kind of group of players. So I think we are really, really confident that these two persons can do a very good job,” Paratici continued.

“The players doesn’t have to change a bit, the style of training. So change everything when you have just 10 games to go I think would be really difficult to the players.

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“I would like to see, not just this season but even last season, when we came here we speak about ‘rebuild’ a bit. We started to play Conference League, starting not so good. Then at the end of the season we achieved a big result to get Champions League.

“Then this season, we played Champions League, we passed the group, it was a good achievement for us. And then we get out against Milan.

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“I think about growing up, the team and the club. The pathway for the club was good about results in that way. And then of course we are disappointed because we can be better in the FA [Cup] against Sheffield [United]. Every time you lose one game, you regret it.

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“Of course we are focused and looking forward about being better arriving at the end of the season and the next season better again.

“The Premier League always is tough, so we have a lot of teams and clubs [who are] really, really prepared…but we fight, we like that. So we will fight to achieve our target, we are prepared to fight until the end of the season. We have to be focused on the last part of the season.

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“We don’t speak about other coaches or follow the speculation in the media because this is just speculation. We are focused and now concentrating on helping Cristian and the staff, the players.

“I think today we have to be focused on our squad and our manager because it’s an important moment.”

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Paratici is one of 12 former Juventus officials who were due in court this week regarding the club’s financial mismanagement, though a date for the hearing has now been pushed back until May.

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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Bruno Fernandes disagrees with Cristiano Ronaldo’s assessment of Roberto Martinez

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Bruno Fernandes has revealed he does not agree with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo regarding the impact of new Portugal head coach Roberto Martinez.

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The former Everton and Belgium boss was named as the surprise successor to Fernando Santos following the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While Martinez has been known to coach attacking and entertaining football, his teams are often characterised by their haphazard and sloppy defending – almost the inverse to how Portugal played under Santos.

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Ronaldo, who scored four goals in two games for Portugal this month, was quick to tell reporters of the positive impact Martinez has had on the team.

“It’s a new chapter for everyone, for the players, the staff and the country. We feel good energy. It’s a breath of fresh air,” the Al Nassr forward said.

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But when speaking to Portuguese channel RTP3, Fernandes simmered Ronaldo’s excited judgement.

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When asked if he agreed with Ronaldo’s comments, Fernandes replied: “No, it’s just a new coach with new ideas. There is no breath of fresh air at all. It’s just a transition period.

“The atmosphere in the national team has always been good. There’s never been anything that wasn’t fresh of the air, so I think it’s just new dynamics, new coach, and you have to assimilate his ideas.”

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Portugal have made a perfect start under Martinez’s management, securing a 4-0 win at home to Liechtenstein before beating Luxembourg 6-0 on the road.

Fernandes and Ronaldo’s recent careers have been intertwined due to their prominence with the Portugal national team and their 15-month spell together at Manchester United.

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Upon Fernandes’ arrival in England, the Old Trafford faithful devised a chant which referenced his arrival ‘from Sporting like Cristiano’.

The duo didn’t quite hit their best heights in tandem while at United, and Ronaldo’s bitter exit in November 2022 was followed by the two appearing to be on frosty terms ahead of the World Cup.

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But Ronaldo dismissed this suggestion at the time, telling the press: “My relationship with him is excellent.”

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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Premier League clubs keen to sign wantaway Lorient star Enzo Le Fee

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A number of Premier League sides are monitoring Lorient midfielder Enzo Le Fee after he confirmed his desire to leave the club this summer, 90min understands.

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The 23-year-old has dazzled this season for Lorient, impressing both defensively and in attack and chipping in with four goals and five assists in 28 games.

90min reported in November that Leicester had begun tracking Le Fee as they prepared for the departure of Youri Tielemans, and sources have confirmed to 90min that the Foxes are by no means alone with their interest.

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Both Fulham and Wolves have voiced an interest in Le Fee while one source also named Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham as admirers of the France Under-21 international.

The interest in Le Fee has follows the midfielder’s public admission that he does not plan to extend his contract, which expires in the summer of 2024, and his desire to secure a move away from Lorient this summer.

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“It’s time for me to leave,” Le Fee told Le Telegramme on Monday.

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“I have a special bond with the club and that’s why I wanted to extend my contract at the start of the season. I waited for a contract offer from Lorient until December. It never came. Now, I don’t expect anything from the club and I won’t extend my contract.

“I hope to leave this summer so that my transfer will bring money to Lorient.”

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Before that interview, Le Fee told L’Equipe of his desire to finish the season strongly to boost his chances of a summer transfer.

“I’ve never wanted to leave Lorient through the back door,” he stressed. “We’re having a very good season and I know these last few months are very important if I want to join a big club.

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“I am someone who likes challenges, risks too. I want to show that I am capable of playing at the highest level.”

LISTEN NOW

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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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