Twenty3’s Under 23s to watch: Marcos Leonardo

Marcos Leonardo could be on the verge of a move to Europe, with Everton, West Ham United and Roma all reportedly interested in securing one of South America’s hottest prospects.

The prodigious striker plays for iconic Brazilian outfit Santos, and is currently starring for Brazil at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup — scoring a brace in the Seleção’s opening fixture against Italy, before netting in yesterday’s 6-0 demolition of the Dominican Republic.

Using Twenty3’s Smart Reports, we have taken an in-depth look at Marcos Leonardo, to find out why he is making waves for club and country.

An all-round attacker

Despite being just 20 years old, Marcos Leonardo is no stranger to first-team football, having featured sporadically for Santos since the 2020 campaign. 

The youngster finally nailed down a consistent spot in the starting XI in 2022 and — as you can see from the detailed Player Overview below —he has certainly lived up to the hype. 

The Bahia native enjoyed an excellent campaign last term, as reflected by his Key Stats. The most important of those is his return of 13 goals, which represents an impressive tally for someone in the formative years of their career.

A particularly eye-catching statistic is that the source of his strikes tend to be headers, having registered the sixth-most headed efforts in the league last term (17). 

This suggests that Marcos Leonardo is a physical forward, which is backed up by the 128 attacking duels he won across the season.

Interestingly, he only stands at 5ft 9in, but is nonetheless capable of winning duels and headers in the final third.

This has been evident at the Under-20 World Cup, when the Verde-Amarela’s No.9 struck a fine header to score Brazil’s second against Italy on Sunday.

Due to his small frame, Marcos Leonardo is primarily a more technical player who thrives with the ball on the ground — but a degree of physicality is nonetheless a significant part of his game.

When it comes to finishing, the attacking prospect’s xG for last season stood at 13.57, which matched up perfectly with his goal record. 

This suggests that he is adept at putting away the chances that come his way, which is clearly a crucial attribute for a striker.

However, it does also indicate that he does not typically find the back of the net from low-quality chances, like long range strikes from outside the box. 

The Player Overview allows us to see this, via his xG Shot Map visualisation. A lot of his shots are from the centre of the box — the most dangerous area of the pitch — reflecting his poacher’s instinct.

Another impressive feature of Twenty3’s Smart Reports is the ability to use a Comparison Radar to compare his performances with those of other players.  

In this case, we have used Fluminense veteran Germán Cano, who was the Brazilian Serie A’s top scorer in 2022 with a commendable 26 goals. 

Cano has hit heights that Leonardo is still aspiring to achieve. However, if you look at the Comparison Radar, it suggests that the youngster isn’t far away.

As you can see, Marcos Leonardo matches his rival in most areas, even outperforming him for key passes, completed dribbles, and attacking duels won.

It is clear to see why the Santos frontman is gaining plenty of attention. 

More to come

By continuing to utilise Twenty3’s Smart Reports, we can analyse Marcos Leonardo’s impact so far this season — despite the small sample size.

In the example below, we can dive deeper into the Santos academy graduate’s goal actions, and even compare them to his teammate Ângelo. 

One of the most notable stats is Marcos Leonardo’s post shot xG with his right-foot (0.98) compared to his left (0.04), as this is an area which the in-demand forward will want to work on.

Despite only playing in four matches compared to Ângelo’s seven in 2023, Leonardo has fired off more shots (11 to five), reflecting how is always alive and active when around the penalty box. 

This type of tenacity has already been rewarded with one goal and one assist this term. However, as you can see from the Goal Scoring chart, he is underperforming his xG by 0.24. 

In contrast, Ângelo’s goal tally stands at two, while overperforming by 0.9. 

There is therefore little doubt that Marcos Leonardo’s tally will surpass his best league record so far (13) as the season progresses, given how often he is getting in goalscoring positions. 

As you can see from his Shot Map visualisation, the youngster has attempted multiple efforts in good positions — especially headers, which we have already highlighted as a significant feature of his game.

Leonardo on the radar of European clubs, and with good reason. If he continues to impress for Santos this term, he could be the next Peixe product to take on the world.

The Smart Reports in this article were produced using the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.