Felipe Anderson produced a stunning and decisive performance in Lazio's 3-0 win over Sampdoria on Monday. "He looked like Cristiano Ronaldo tonight," the away coach Sinisa Mihajlovic noted after watching the Brazilian decimate his defence with a goal and two assists.
Lazio boss Stefano Pioli was similarly complimentary and will now hope that his young charge can continue his recent fine form into Sunday's derby against Roma.
Anderson's journey to Italy began in the town of Santa Maria in central Brazil, where he was born and raised. He bounced around several local youth sides before moving to Parana in 2006, passing through Astral EC and Coritiba before moving, once more, to the city of Santos in 2007. There he joined the set-up of the eponymous local club, Santos FC, famed in recent years for producing the likes of Robinho, Neymar and current hot prospect Gabriel.
He made his debut at 17 and following sporadic appearances in his first couple of years as a professional, became a regular during the 2012 season under Muricy Ramalho. His standing in his homeland was tainted by his involvement in Brazil's first-round elimination from the 2013 South American U20 Championship, but Lazio nevertheless arrived with an offer shortly thereafter. However, paperwork issues prevented the transfer from being completed.
Undeterred, Lazio returned in the summer of 2013 and agreed to an eight million euros deal, with Anderson signing a five-year contract at the Stadio Olimpico. He was carrying an ankle injury when he arrived in Rome, which further complicated his adaptation to a new country, a new language and a new style of football. He found it difficult to get to grips with his tactical responsibilities, gained weight and made little impact in his 13 league appearances.
The Brazilian was again in and out of the side in the early part of the current campaign under new coach Pioli. However, an injury to Antonio Candreva in late November provided him with an opportunity to impress and he responded brilliantly, lighting up Serie A with a series of match-winning displays. With direct involvement in eight of Lazio's last 10 goals, the 21-year-old has played a key role in their rise to third place in the table.
Anderson is a bright, inventive, two-footed attacking midfielder who is capable of playing centrally or wide. Lazio claim he is the fastest player in Serie A and he certainly puts his combination of speed and technical ability to good use. He is one of the most regular dribblers of the ball in Italy and also boasts the best success rate (69 percent) of any of the league's 10 most prolific dribblers.
La Gazzetta dello Sport recently christened him Lampadina, or light bulb -- a player capable of illuminating any match with a moment of skill or a swift turn of pace.
- technically excellent
- very quick
- prone to lazy passes and crosses
- needs space to run into
Tackling: He both attempts and wins more tackles than any of Lazio's other forwards, which shows a willingness to help out in defence.
Marking: As above, he puts his pace to good use in tracking back with opposition full backs, although he is sometimes relieved of these duties to provide an out ball on the counter attack.
Heading: Relatively short and is not involved in many aerial duels. Usually pulls away to the edge of the area in anticipation of a partial clearance when a cross is delivered from the opposite flank. Rarely attacks the penalty spot.
Close control: His first touch is excellent and regularly sets up the ball at a good distance to be struck with his second. His lovely, cushioned touch past a defender on his opening goal against Inter Milan before Christmas was illustrative of the quality he possesses. Good, quick feet in tight areas.
Passing: The incision he offers is generally through his pace and ball skills rather than the quality of his passing, but he is capable of finding his targets over short and medium distances and does link well with his teammates in tight quarters. He can, however, be a little sloppy in possession while his final ball often lacks forethought.
Positioning: Rarely looks to make off-ball runs in behind opposing defences, instead preferring to receive the ball to feet. Bright and alert in his movement infield when play is building on the opposite flank.
Crossing: Three of his four assists in recent weeks have come from low crosses into the area and he is more than capable of picking out a teammate having skipped past a defender to the by-line. Does, however, have a tendency to resort to lazy, easily defended crosses from deeper positions when no other obvious options present themselves.
Finishing: He has never been a prolific goal scorer but certainly possesses the necessary technical ability and coolness in front of goal to score on a more regular basis. Strikes the ball very cleanly and is a dangerous long-range shooter.
What The Experts Say
Lazio boss Pioli "Felipe Anderson? I found a player of great talent and technique. He needed confidence and regular playing time."
Felipe Anderson is an absolutely outrageous prospect. #Lazio
- Michael Yokhin (@Yokhin) January 5, 2015
- WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 24, 2014
The transfer of Anderson from Santos to Lazio was complicated by the input of the third-party investment group Doyen Sports, who pocketed 3.8 million euros from the deal.
"These third-party owners changed their minds continually," Lazio's director of sport Igli Tare told Il Messaggero. "When we had everything decided, they would start from scratch two hours later. It all happened for a full week, so it felt like being in the 'Twilight Zone.' "
Anderson endured a difficult first season in Italy but with the support of the coaching staff and his family he has now settled, and Lazio are starting to reap the rewards of their initial outlay and continued patience. The arrival of Pioli has sparked him into life -- he is high on confidence, in excellent form and is drawing praise from various quarters.
Other teams are, however, sure to take note of his recent fine performances, and will make adjustments to prevent space opening up for him to attack. Marking will tighten and the 21-year-old will be forced to come up with new solutions. He is a player who has been accused of coasting on his natural talents in the past, and the next month or so will be a good test of whether or not he is ready to take the next step in his career.
Tough challenges await. Sunday's Rome derby is followed by the visit of fourth-placed Napoli a week later. There are still flaws to his game that will need to be worked on if he is achieve his recently stated goal of receiving a call up to the Brazilian national team during 2015. He clearly has the necessary physical and technical attributes to be a real star, but it will ultimately be the level of his desire to improve that will dictate how much he achieves.