Tottenham Hotspur got close to signing one of the biggest Brazilian prospects in the last decade, his agent Wagner Ribeiro has revealed.
According to the official, Spurs made a bid for the midfielder Lulinha in 2007, but the deal didn’t go through because there were hopes the player could succeed in his home country first.
Lulinha is considered to be one of the biggest flops in Brazilian football due to all the expectation around him from the time he made it to the Corinthians first team. He left the youth categories with 297 goals, which is still a record at at the club.
His statistics for the national team were impressive too. Twelve goals in a U17 South American Championship plus a hat-trick in his Pan American Games debut. The kid was being prepared to be a star.
Talking to ESPN Brasil (TV), the agent revealed he managed to get the youngster a five-year contract at Corinthians in 2007, with a salary worth the same as the regular starting players. Lulinha was still 17 at the time.
When the club wanted him to play for the youth levels, the agent says he used the bid from Tottenham to press the board to claim he should be in the first team: “I said no, he had to play, because I had an offer from Tottenham. I had a €6m offer.”
He ended up playing with the professionals, but Corinthians didn’t do well that year, and the wonderkid couldn’t impress during the club’s slide to relegation.
Lulinha was then loaned to Estoril and Olhanenese in Portugal and Bahia from Brazil. At the end of the contract, he was released and signed for Ceará, a club with a big fanbase but small success.
He later played for Criciúma, Red Bull Brasil, Botafogo, Mogi Mirim and finally Pohang Steelers from South Korea. None of these transfers involved a fee, with the player being released by all the sides.
Lulinha is now 26 and far from becoming the player everyone expected. Transfermarkt, for example, valued him at €5m in 2007, and now say he’s worth €450k.
Still in that famous year, the player was also linked to Chelsea. The Independent claimed the club had sent two scouts to watch him and were close on reaching a £8m deal for the signing. The newspaper called the youngster “the new Ronaldinho”.
Was a Premier League chance all he needed? It’s hard to say. Brazilian prospects usually struggle to prove themselves under pressure, especially at clubs like Corinthians, where fans don’t have much patience and demand immediate results.
Maybe a better career plan was enough. It’s difficult for a player to settle well when being loaned to so many clubs. Of course we can look for all the excuses we want, there will still not be a reason why such a wonderkid had this fate. A decade later, his youth level records still stand, and will probably stay that way for a long time.