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Who is Newcastle target Marcos Leonardo – the Brazilian hotshot who could join in January

James Pennington
Marcos Leonardo celebrating

Marcos Leonardo celebrating at the under-20 World Cup

Marcos Leonardo is a Brazilian striker currently starring for Brazilian top-flight side Santos, with Newcastle United, Porto and Sevilla all registering interest in the forward, with a fee of around £25m being touted. 

TEAMtalk’s Fraser Fletcher revealed on Wednesday that Newcastle United are the frontrunners for the 20-year-old’s signature but are not the only club that is interested in acquiring his services.

Leonardo has progressed through the youth ranks at his boyhood club Santos and has firmly established himself in the first team, becoming an undisputed starter in the past couple of years since making his debut in 2020.

Santos have struggled so far this campaign, currently sitting 15th in the Brazilian Serie A just five points above the relegation zone.

Leonardo has scored 13 times and assisted on two occasions in just 24 appearances, however, and his output may just keep the Brazilian side up come the end of the season.

Leonardo’s career so far

The Brazilian joined the ranks of Santos in August 2014 after a successful trial and signed his first professional contract with them in October 2019.

He made his professional debut in August 2020, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 away win at Sport Recife.

Then on October 4th, he scored his first professional goal, netting his team’s third in a 3–2 away win against Goias.

Just over two weeks later on October 20th, Leonardo scored the winner in a 2-1 home victory over Argentine side Defensa y Justicia, becoming the sixth-youngest-ever scorer in the Libertadores.

The forward spent the 2021 campaign as a backup option behind Kaio Jorge and Leo Baptistao, but in 2022 he signed a new four-year contract until 2026 and became the club’s first-choice striker and has gone on to score 35 times and assist on six occasions in 93 appearances.

Leonardo has appeared for the Brazilian U16s on five occasions and scored twice and has also appeared for the U20s on 13 occasions, scoring 15 times.

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What is Leonardo like as a player?

Standing at 1.74m (5ft 9), Leonardo is not the tallest of players but is relatively physical and doesn’t easily get bullied off of the ball. He often roams about in the central areas of the pitch and enjoys dropping deep and getting involved in the build-up.

The 20-year-old is a natural all-round finisher, adept at using both feet and his head. He can score chip shots, place the ball in the bottom corner and fire past the keeper with speed and power.

He is very intelligent off of the ball, in 2022 alone he was only caught offside on an average of 0.5 times a match for the whole season and is roughly the same in the 2023 season.

Leonardo is an aggressive presser which is becoming more and more important in modern football and more often than not, the player finds himself as the main pressing trigger for the side, although being not a natural defensive player he does often fall for fake passes.

With Santos often on the back foot, it goes to show that Marcos goes out of his way to contribute to the best of his capabilities.

The forward is far from the complete player but possesses all of the natural raw abilities to develop into a top player.

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Where will Leonardo go?

Under contract until 2026 and with a reported £100m release clause, Santos may not be able to demand that sort of fee for their wonderkid striker due to their current predicament in the Brazilian top flight, with a fee of around £25m more likely.

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle have been the club most heavily linked with the forward, though with Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson both battling out for a starting birth at St James’ Park, one of them may need to vacate their position for Leonardo to come in.

Wilson is now 31 and signed a new two-year extension in September 2023 until the summer of 2025, so may not be a longer-term option for the Magpies, though has averaged just under a goal every two games since signing for Newcastle in 2020.

Porto and Sevilla have been two other sides linked with Leonardo, with Porto having success with major success with Brazilians in the past, namely Hulk, Casemiro and Danilo, not to mention current other highly-rated forward Evanilson.

Sevilla have struggled so far this season, winning only two of their opening ten games in La Liga despite their Europa League triumph last year. Youssef En-Nesyri and Rafa Mir have both been linked with moves away in the summer and if interest is revitalised in January a move for Leonardo may not be far away.