The city of Rio de Janeiro is a place full of footballing talent and spectacle. The Maracana stadium has hosted dozens of international matches, including two World Cup finals, and two Copa America finals. The Maracana is also home to one of the Carioca state’s oldest clubs, Fluminense.
Established in 1902 Fluminense is one of Brazil’s oldest clubs. They also have a fantastic youth set up where they are able to produce talented players every year. The nature of the Brazilian football calendar creates a high turnover rate for many clubs. While it is a shame to see top talents go abroad, it creates opportunities for the new youngsters to shine.
One of these new talents is Marcos Paulo. Having made his professional debut in 2019 at the age of 18, Paulo has begun to make a name for himself with the Fluzão. His performances have also caught the eye of the Portuguese Federation. Being eligible to represent the European nation due to his grandfather, Paulo has also begun to play top European sides in international competition at his young age.
Positioning for club and country
When he playing for Fluminense Marcos Paulo is tactically comfortable in any position where he is able to be a threat in the final third. Since his debut with the Tricolor, he has played on the right, in the centre and on the left as a forward. With Portugal, he is typically used as the centre forward in a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1. Looking at his heat map we can clearly tell his preference for the left side of the field.
Paulo also recorded an average of 4.29 touches in the penalty area in 2019. Looking at the graph below we can see that this ranks highly amongst attacking field players.
This stat leads us straight into the next portion of the scout report. We will analyse his biggest strength inside the penalty area, shooting and finishing.
The young Brazilian has quite an affinity for goals. With Fluminense in his first full year as a professional, he scored 6 goals. Playing with the Portuguese U18’s he bagged 3 goals before moving up to the U19’s and scoring in his first tournament with that group. So far in 2020 Paulo has found the net twice in 7 appearances across all competitions.
For club and country, Paulo registered 44 total shots, with 18 on target. With those shots on target, he scored 9 goals. Using an analysis of his shot placement, we can tell that Paulo is not shooting for the sake of racking up shots. With one goal in the middle of the goal, he prefers putting the ball where the keeper is not.
This also an indication of the type of striker that Paulo is. His primary hunting ground is inside the penalty area. Looking at a graph of his shot selection, we see that he scored one goal outside the penalty area. He also only attempted 8 shots from distance.
Fox in the box
Being comfortable inside the box also means that the young Brazilian is able to finish from crosses or set pieces. He was able to finish 4 of his goals from crosses or set pieces. The following examples from club and country showcase his intelligence in front of goal.
Against Peñarol in the Copa Sudamericana, we have a perfect example of the Brazilian’s aerial proficiency and tactics inside the box. As his teammate is preparing to deliver a cross, Paulo is one of four Tricolor players lining up for the pass.
Recognizing that the Uruguayan defenders are marking his teammates, he positions himself in the gap between them.
As the ball arrives, the furthest defender realizes that he should pick up Paulo. At this point, it is too late as the forward is able to get to the ball first and put his side ahead.
Against the U20 England team, we see Paulo turn and face the goal after recovering his teammate’s blocked shot. The English defenders begin to react to his positioning and the arrival of another Portuguese attacker.
As they prepare to defend the potential cutback pass, they do not realize how much time they have given Paulo. He takes a few touches towards the goalkeeper and continues to show that he will pass. The Brazilian then takes advantage of the gap between the keeper and the post, ultimately deceiving the English defence with his finish.
These numbers and examples indicate that Paulo is thinking about where he needs to place his shot, and where he is taking it from. He also understands that his strength is finishing inside the penalty area. As he gets more games under his belt his shot volume will increase and he will find the goal with ease.
In the next part of the scout report, we will look at another one of his strengths as an attacker.
Distribution in the final third
While Marcos Paulo is becoming an efficient shooter he is also capable of creating opportunities for his teammates. He had 5 assists to go along with his 6 goals for the Fluzão in 2019. This year he has already recorded 2 assists in his 7 appearances for Carioca club.
Taking a look at his passing ability, he averaged 27 passes a game with a 78% success rate. Analyzing the Brazilian’s passing in key areas, he plays short accurate passes early on in the build-up. Getting into the final third, however, he understands that risks must be taken, and is a little less accurate due to this.
Looking at an analysis of his actions around the penalty area, we can see that Paulo is no one-trick pony. He is just as adept at passing the ball as he is dribbling it in. His passing success rate was 61% doesn’t initially catch the eye. However, it does show that he is picking his head up and attempting to combine with his teammates.
We see all of these things on display in this assist from Fluminense’s recent match against Botafogo. After receiving the ball in the flank, Paulo has now moved into the half-space. As he is dribbling inwards he notices his teammate’s diagonal run behind the defender.
Timing it just right, Paulo plays a perfectly weighted pass behind the defence that the forward is able to score with.
Dribbling & recoveries in the final third
Rounding out Paulo’s strengths in the final third is his dribbling ability. As we saw in the previous section of the scout report, he is equally as comfortable dribbling the ball himself into the penalty area. Analyzing his dribbles in the final third we see where the majority of his 40 successful dribbles were.
We also see that he was able to score 2 of his goals off of the dribble. Paulo’s ability to contribute to the attack in a variety of ways is crucial for his club team.
The young striker is also capable of contributing in transition. Paulo is most likely to recover the ball nearest his position. The Fluzão striker totalled 16 recoveries in Zone 14, and 15 on the left flank. Taking a more detailed look at his defensive work in the final third, this is clearly evident.
Looking at a comparison below, he ranks highly in his recoveries and dangerous recoveries per game amongst attacking field players.
Marcos Paulo is becoming an incredibly well-rounded striker and he has a combination of experiences that will no doubt turn him into a quality forward for any club in Europe. Being able to learn from both the Brazilian and Portuguese styles of coaching, Paulo’s development is very unique.
He is putting himself in a position to be seen by multiple clubs around the world, and it is no surprise that Marseille, Lyon, and Milan have been tracking his progress. He would thrive in Ligue 1 or Serie A and continue to develop before his next move.