The 2020 season has beena roller-coaster for everyone connected with Sao Paulo.
Howver, a disastrous return to action following the tournament’s six-month, Covid-enforced hiatus saw them miss out on a place in the knockout stages. To make things worse, the club proceeded to bomb out of the second-tier Sudamericana after losing a thrilling tie to Lanus on away goals, having drawn 6-6 over the two legs.
But those continental disappointments have proven somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the team coached by Fernando Diniz.
Sao Paulo have been able to focus solely on their domestic efforts, unlike many of their direct rivals for the Serie A title, and they are also just two steps away from success in the prestigious Copa do Brasil.
In the latter tournament, in particular, they have Brenner to thank.
The 20-year-old striker has emerged as his side’s most potent goal threat since football returned to Brazil in July, with the departure of ex-Milan forward Alexandre Pato opening the door for a regular spot in Diniz’s starting line-up.
Brenner has netted 18 goals across all competitions in 2020, 13 of which came during a blistering one-month, 11-game spell in October and November.
Among his victims were reigning Brazilian and Libertadores champions Flamengo, who saw the youngster net twice at the Maracana to lead Sao Paulo to victory in the Copa do Brasil quarter-final first leg and ultimately set up a semi clash with Gremio.
The game marked an underwhelming start to Rogerio Ceni’s coaching tenure at Flamengo and, in a curious twist of fate, the legendary goal-scoring ex-keeper was the man responsible for bringing Brenner up to the Sao Paulo first team during his time at the Morumbi.
Ceni must now have bittersweet memories of the forward: he also saw his former charge score no fewer than four times against him earlier in 2020 when still in charge of Fortaleza.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Brenner, who exploded onto the scene at just 17 but, as he admitted in a recent interview, came close to giving up on football altogether after a series of setbacks.
“I was loaned out to Fluminense… but then I lost focus,” he told SPFCTV. “I even asked to sit out games, to stay at home. I would head to training thinking about what I was going to do afterwards. I didn’t want to play football anymore.”
The arrival of Diniz, who had taken the forward under his wing at Fluminense, proved a turning point. “I heard Diniz wanted me,” Brenner explained. “That day, my battery was recharged 100 per cent. I promised my mother than I was going to give my all.”
Equally comfortable leading the line or playing out wide, Brenner’s pace and instinct in front of the goal has led to admiring glances from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Juventus have been keeping close tabs on him since he exploded into focus this year, although the reigning Serie A champions are yet to make a formal approach for his services to Sao Paulo, who are understandably keen to tie their gem down to a long-term deal.
Arsenal, Milan and Lazio have also been linked with Brenner, who has earned comparisons with Manchester City and Brazil star Gabriel Jesus thanks to his threat in front of goal. The man himself, however, dreams of one day lining up alongside Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.
“Out of all the different clubs, Barcelona are one which I would like to play for due to all they represent in the world of football,” he told Sport back in 2018, after being included by Tite among a group of young hopefuls who helped the Selecao prepare for their Russia World Cup campaign. “Not just in football terms, but rather as a philosophy and in their playing structure.
“Right now, my goal is to consolidate my career to help give back to my family after all the sacrifices they have made for me these years. Then the time will come to dream bigger.
“And who knows… maybe play at Barcelona.”
Those dreams do not sound so ambitious two years down the line, with Brenner’s goals spearheading Sao Paulo’s bid for double honours in 2020. He netted again in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Goias, which means the Tricolor are two points clear of Atletico Mineiro at the Serie A summit, with a game in hand over Jorge Sampaoli’s troops.
Silverware this season would only heighten Brenner’s already elevated asking price, which is estimated to be €50 million (£45m/$60m).
Source : goal.com