It’s always difficult to judge how a South American youngster will adapt to playing abroad, one reason why, with a few notable exceptions, the transfer fees European sides pay for young Brazilians are generally far below a player’s eventual value. That being the case, reports that Lyon were preparing a bid of €25 million for Jemerson came as a shock to most European observers, many of whom had never heard of the Atlético Mineiro centre-back.
L’Equipe, in reporting on the bid, dubbed the Afro-Brazilian ‘Blackenbauer’ for the similarity in his style of play to German legend Franz Beckenbauer. The comparison flatters the 22-year-old, but there is certainly a resemblance, with his languid, at times almost effortless, style of defending evoking memories of Der Kaiser.
Jemerson is rapid and dominant in the air, with perfect timing in the tackle and, while he cannot claim to match Beckenbauer’s attacking prowess, he always provides a threat attacking corners and free kicks.
The defender was a late arrival in professional football, having spent his formative years playing in the amateur leagues of his native Bahia. His break came when, as an 18-year-old, he was spotted by scouts of Serie D outfit Confiança, for whom he impressed so much that club bosses quickly resolved to cash in by selling him on to one of Brazil’s big boys.
First up were trials with Santos, Palmeiras and Vasco, but all three passed on the youngster before Atlético took the plunge, a decision that has looked a better one with every game Jemerson has played in the alvinegro shirt.
His first chance at first-team football came on loan at Democrata in 2012, but with captain Réver and veteran stalwart Leonardo Silva forming an awesome central defensive partnership, there did not appear to be much prospect of Jemerson breaking into the Atlético first team any time soon. However, the captain’s misfortune in suffering a serious injury early in 2014 gave the youngster a chance that he grasped with both hands.
Such was his form that when Réver, hero of Galo’s victorious 2013 Copa Libertadores campaign, recovered he was deemed surplus to requirements and sold to Internacional.
Now the partnership Jemerson has formed with Leo Silva is a key ingredient to the success of the Levir Culpi team that currently tops the table, seeking to end Atlético’s 44-year wait for a league title. Galo fans, however, are right to worry that their young star might not see out the current campaign, with Jemerson having made no effort to hide his strong desire to play in Europe and represent Brazil.
As he told Globoesporte last year: “My objective is to perform well for Atlético and keep improving, but who knows, maybe one day I can play in Europe and for the Seleçāo? You have to dream.”
Written by Calum Leahy
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