Who is Marcos Leonardo and why does Jose Mourinho want him at AS Roma so badly?

Jose Mourinho wants a new striker at AS Roma and Santos youngster Marcos Leonardo is the player that he has his heart set on.

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Whilst AS Roma‘s latest striker target is a relatively unknown name in Europe, in his native South America, Marcos Leonardo is seen as Brazil’s next big export.

Leonardo hasn’t received the global exposure that Neymar did 10 years ago when leaving Santos, or even the same level as his fellow Brazilian Endrick is receiving currently. However, his potential departure is exciting Brazilians as to what he could do in Europe.

For fans of the Football Manager games, Leonardo is a favourite and often becomes one of the better players in the game, something which Jose Mourinho will be wanting to replicate in the real world.

The Giallorossi had their first bid rejected due to the payment timings, but the Italian giants are reportedly restructuring their deal to one that suits all parties, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The latest youngster on Santos’ wonderkid conveyor belt

O Palhaço, meaning ‘the Joker’, first joined Santos in 2014 at just 11 years old. Nine years later, and with 111 senior caps for the club, Leonardo consistently shines. Since the turn of the year, the 20-year-old has contributed 19 goals in Brazil’s first division.

He’s also quickly becoming a star in Brazil’s Under-20 setup, although the Selecao were eliminated in the 2023 Under-20 World Cup quarter-finals against Israel. Despite that, he scored five times and assisted once throughout the competition.

Stature-wise, the Brazilian offers something very different to what Mourinho has in his Roma attack currently. Standing at 1.76m (5ft 7″), he physically doesn’t align with the typical Mourinho forward and differs to Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti.

It’s his intelligence and technicality that really sets him aside though. The starlet has great knowledge of what kind of run to make and when to do so, identifying space before many others can.

AS Roma’s pursuit of Leonardo

Jose Mourinho applauds the fans after Roma’s Europa League final loss. (@OfficialASRoma)

Whilst the youngster featured, and scored, for Santos against Atletico Parananse, the situation is very quickly progressing, and it is unknown whether he will continue to make himself available for selection for his current club.

The Giallorossi are infatuated with the Brazilian and upon the rejection of Roma’s first offer of €10 million with €8m in add-ons, they have returned to the negotiating table.

This time, they are offering €12m with €6m added on in bonuses. The snag for the Brazilian club is the fact that the Giallorossi would not make the first payment until January 2024.

For the player too, he is in love with the idea of a move to Roma. Reports from Brazilian media outlets suggest that he met with Santos to ask if he could move to Rome, and fans couldn’t help but notice that he recently followed Roma on his social media accounts.

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