Thursday is big for Endrick – world football’s most sought after teenager.
He turns 16; a major milestone in any young man’s life 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 poverty-stricken family the opportunity of a better life.
Enrick, hailed 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’ll sign the landmark deal in full view of Brazil’s assembled media, whose infatuation with the kid they view as the next Neymar already at stratospheric levels.
Having scored a reported 170 goals in 172 games, you get the hysteria.
He hasn’t played a single minute of senior football yet, but there are some in Brazil who want him named in Tite’s squad for the World Cup.
That is, of course, unlikely but it provides a flavour of exactly how highly he is regarded.
And, two days before his 16th birthday, Endrick is speaking exclusively to Sportsmail from his family home in Sao Paulo for what is his first interview with a UK newspaper.
Ordinarily there wouldn’t be this level of interest in a prospect signing his first pro deal. But this isn’t an ordinary kid.
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 a reported 170 goals in 172 games and is touted as the next Neymar
Interestingly, Endrick’s all-time hero is Cristiano Ronaldo; United will hope that gives them the edge as the scramble to sign the wonderkid gets underway.
Unfortunately for Palmeiras, they’ll only have a limited window to enjoy Endrick’s talents.
He’ll sign for one of Europe’s elite clubs, almost certainly by the time he turns 18.
Indeed, he’s already featured on the front page of renowned Spanish newspaper Marca three times, while Gary Lineker branded Endrick a ‘special talent’ as he posted a video of the 5ft 6ins forward scoring with an outrageous overhead bicycle kick from the edge of the area.
‘How do I cope with the hype? I try to remember that I’m very young,’ explains Endrick.
‘I try to remember I’m still a child and that it’s only a game. I don’t want to take it overly seriously.
‘Yes, I want to be serious about my career but during the game I want to have as much fun as possible.’
The forward has told Sportsmail that he wants to have as much fun as possible playing football
He was named player of the tournament at this year’s ‘Copinha’ – an Under 21 competition
Hopefully he never loses that youthful innocence, though Endrick has already experienced the external pressures that accompanies success.
Endrick was named player of the tournament at this year’s ‘Copinha’ – Brazil’s most prestigious youth competition.
The fact Endrick was aged just 15 playing in an Under 21 tournament brings his performances into sharper focus – and sent the hype into overdrive.
‘I think the Copinha was the moment I realised I’m doing things more advanced than is expected,’ he explained.
‘Even though I’m used to playing with older kids, I’m not a protagonist to believe I’m special.
‘But because of this tournament, I saw that no other player had done this before at my age. That’s when it came together in my mind.’
Out-performing his elders isn’t new to Endrick. As a schoolboy, he’d play against boys much older than him to the point where games in his own age group became too easy – so easy that he banned himself from using his dominant left foot.
But Endrick’s rise to fame is a far cry from what was the toughest of upbringings.
Endrick hailed Manchester United and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo as his idol growing up
Raised in poverty in Brazil’s capital city Brasilia, the fame and fortune of professional football seemed a world away.
Dad Douglas and mother Cinitia were constants, but the lack of a steady income meant Endrick often went hungry.
‘I could not attend some training sessions because we did not have enough money for the bus fare,’ recalled Endrick.
‘That was an issue, 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 know only a minority of players who start the journey I am on complete it.’
As is often the case for many young Brazilians, Endrick saw football as his family’s route out of hardship.
Endrick was making a name for himself locally – but even then the cost of playing was proving a financial strain.
Palmeiras are currently first in Brazil’s Serie A – two points clear with 17 games played
‘In Brasilia there are no big clubs – just football schools with affiliations to clubs from Sao Paulo and Rio,’ he said.
‘You can pay to attend the schools, but we didn’t have the money so I had to go on trial.’
Eventually, Endrick, aged 11 at the time, was offered a six-month trial with Palmeiras – a club located 600 miles away from home.
At first father Douglas insisted the family would not uproot to Sao Paulo to effectively gamble on his son’s success.
But a resolution, that saw Douglas become Palmeiras’ first-team janitor, was found for Endrick to join the club’s academy.
Palmeiras manager Abel Ferreira will see Endrick sign a professional deal at the club soon
Douglas’ time within the confines of Palmeiras’ dressing room proved an eye-opener – and to this day the father regales his son with examples of how players reacted to certain behavioural traits from colleagues as he seeks to warn Endrick about the pitfalls of an over-inflated ego.
Former Bayern Munich star Ze Roberto, who was part of the Palmeiras squad while Douglas was janitor, now acts as a mentor to Endrick as he transitions into senior football.
But the real driving force behind Endrick’s rise to superstardom 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 keep humble and remember the difficulties I’ve gone through – it gives me strength to carry on.’