Thursday is big for Endrick – the most wanted teenager in world football.
He’s 16 ; a milestone in the life of any young man, but even more so for a player hailed as a generational talent in Brazil.
That’s because he can legally sign a professional playing contract with Palmeiras, the club that gave him and his poor family the chance for a better life.
Enrick, hailed as a generational talent in Brazil, can legally sign a playing contract on Thursday
The youngster will sign for Palmeiras, who saved him and his family from poverty in Brazil
He will sign the historic deal in full view of Brazil’s assembled media, whose enthusiasm for the kid they see as the next Neymar is already at stratospheric levels.
After scoring 170 goals in 172 games you get hysteria.
He hasn’t played a single minute of senior football yet, but there are those in Brazil who want him named in Tite’s World Cup squad.
This is, of course, unlikely, but it gives an idea of how he is viewed.
And, two days before his 16th birthday, Endrick speaks exclusively to Sportsmail from his family home in Sao Paulo for what is his first interview with a British newspaper.
Normally, there wouldn’t be this level of interest for a prospect signing their first professional contract. But this is no ordinary child.
Name a club and they want to sign Endrick. Real Madrid? Yes. Barcelona? Yes. Paris Saint Germain? Yes. Manchester City? Yes. Liverpool? Yes. Chelsea? Yes. Manchester United ? Yes. We could go on.
Endrick has scored 170 goals in 172 games and is being touted as the next Neymar
Interestingly, Endrick’s all-time hero is Cristiano Ronaldo; United hope this will give them the edge as the race to sign the wonderkid begins.
Unfortunately for Palmeiras, they will only have a limited window to take advantage of Endrick’s talents.
He will sign for one of Europe’s elite clubs, almost certainly at the age of 18.
Indeed, he has already made the front page of famous Spanish newspaper Marca three times, while Gary Lineker called Endrick a “special talent” when he posted a video of the 5ft 6in striker scoring with a kick from outrageous biking from the edge of the area. .
‘How do I deal with the hype? I try to remember that I am very young,” says Endrick.
“I try to remember that I’m still a kid and it’s just a game. I don’t want to take it too seriously.
“Yes, I want to be serious in my career, but during the game I want to have as much fun as possible.”
The striker told Sportsmail he wants to have as much fun playing football as possible
He was named Player of the Tournament at this year’s ‘Copinha’ – an under-21 competition
Hopefully he never loses that youthful innocence, although Endrick has already experienced the outside pressures that come with success.
Endrick was named Player of the Tournament at this year’s ‘Copinha’, Brazil’s most prestigious youth competition.
The fact that Endrick was only 15 playing in an Under-21 tournament highlights his performances – and sent the hype into overdrive.
“I think the Copinha was the moment when I realized that I was doing more advanced things than expected,” he explained.
“Even though I’m used to playing with older kids, I’m not a protagonist to believe that I’m special.
“But thanks to this tournament, I saw that no other player had done this before at my age.” That’s when it all came together in my mind.
Outclassing his elders is nothing new for Endrick. As a schoolboy, he played against boys much older than him to the point that matches in his own age group became too easy – so easy that he forbade himself from using his dominant left foot.
But Endrick’s rise to fame is far from what has been the toughest upbringing.
Endrick hailed Manchester United and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo as his growing idol
Raised in poverty in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, fame and fortune in professional football seemed a long way off.
Papa Douglas and mother Cinitia were constants, but the lack of a stable income meant that Endrick was often hungry.
“I couldn’t attend some training sessions because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the bus,” Endrick recalls.
“It was a problem, knowing that I was missing sessions but there was no solution because we didn’t have the money.”
“It’s been a long and very difficult journey for me and I only know a minority of players who start the journey I’m on and finish it.”
As is often the case with many young Brazilians, Endrick saw football as his family’s way out of trouble.
Endrick was making a name for himself locally – but even then the cost of playing proved a financial strain.
Palmeiras is currently top of the Brazilian Serie A – two points clear with 17 games played
“In Brasilia there are no big clubs, just football schools affiliated with clubs from Sao Paulo and Rio,” he said.
“You can pay to go to school, but we had no money, so I had to go to trial.”
Eventually Endrick, then 11, was offered a six-month trial with Palmeiras – a club 600 miles from his home.
At first, Father Douglas insisted the family would not uproot themselves to Sao Paulo to effectively gamble on his son’s success.
But a resolution, which saw Douglas become Palmeiras’ first-team caretaker, was reached for Endrick to join the club’s academy.
Palmeiras manager Abel Ferreira will soon see Endrick sign a professional contract with the club
Douglas’ time within the confines of the Palmeiras dressing room proved a revelation – and to this day the father regales his son with examples of how players reacted to certain behavioral traits from his colleagues as he seeks to warn Endrick of the pitfalls of an inflated over-ego.
Former Bayern Munich star Ze Roberto, who was part of the Palmeiras squad when Douglas was a caretaker, now acts as a mentor to Endrick as he transitions into senior football.
But the real engine of Endrick’s rise to stardom is Endrick himself – the boy from Brasilia with the world at his feet.
“I know I’m not there yet, I know I have a lot of work to do,” he added.
“I thank God, I have to stay humble and remember the hardships I’ve been through – it gives me the strength to carry on.”