A slow transfer window has picked up in a somewhat unexpected way.
Juventus have apparently won the race to the signature of 19-year-old Brazilian starlet Kaio Jorge, beating out AC Milan and Benfica for the young striker. The initial report was made by Brazilian outlet UOL Esporte (h/t Football Italia), and other outlets have picked up the news, including the usually-reliable Romeo Agresti.
#Juventus have reached a full agreement with #KaioJorge. Now The Bianconeri will decide whether to try to reach an agreement with #Santos or to sign him for free at the start of the year @goal— Romeo Agresti (@romeoagresti) July 26, 2021
Jorge is a product of the Santos youth system, and has been playing top-flight matches in Brazil since he was 16. Overall he’s scored 15 times in 79 games for Santos and 11 more in 14 games combined for Brazil at the U15 and U17 level. That includes five goals in Brazil’s triumph at the U17 World Cup in 2019, included a game-tying penalty with six minutes to go in the final against Mexico. His contract with Santos is up at the end of December, and he’d attracted a lot of interest from European clubs. Benfica were so keen on him that they were even willing to meet the €10 million price that Santos was asking for to take him early, but Jorge apparently had his heart set on going to Serie A. Milan had been considered the main contenders for his signature for some time, with Juve always lurking on the periphery, but it seems that new sporting director Federico Cherubini has made a power move and gazzumped the Rossoneri.
When watching highlights, one of the biggest things you’ll notice is his ability to dribble through traffic, which at times is truly exceptional. He’s also adept from dead balls, both from the penalty spot and outside the box. At six feet even he won’t be outdueling the biggest defenders in the air, but he does show a decent header when he gets room. He needs to clean up his overall finishing, but few 19-year-olds don’t.
As Agresti mentions, it now remains to be seen whether Juve will negotiate with Santos for some sort of nominal fee to bring him in over the summer or whether they wait out his contract and bring him into the fold over the winter. It’s also a question as to whether or not he’ll go immediately into the first team or be stashed at the U23 level for a while, but given the fact that this is essentially a free-agent signing I find the latter case unlikely. This is a guy that’s been playing in the top flight in Brazil—and in the Copa Libertadores—for a few years now, and if he thought he was bound for Serie C he would likely have signed with Milan instead.
At the end of the day he remains a prospect, but one with a good-looking ceiling. Max Allegri has a good track record with young strikers at Juve. He was highly successful with Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala as 22-year-olds when they first arrived, and propelled the career of Moise Kean at a similar age to Jorge’s now. There’s also cautionary tales like that of Gabigol at Inter when bringing in strikers from Brazil, but all in all this looks like a low-risk, high-reward deal that, in the best case, could bring Juventus a seriously talented young striker to add firepower to their attack. Time will tell how things turn out.