The Wonderkid Files: Murillo - £17m Brazilian star on Nottingham Forest’s transfer wish list

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A scouting report on Murillo, the gifted young Brazilian defender linked with a big-money move to Nottingham Forest this summer.

Welcome back to The Wonderkid Files, a weekly scouting report on a top young talent who could be shaking the footballing world up in the very near future. This week, we’re running the rule over a 21-year-old Brazilian defender who’s being lined up by Nottingham Forest – Murillo.

Murillo could prove to be an ideal signing for Nottingham Forest Murillo could prove to be an ideal signing for Nottingham Forest
Murillo could prove to be an ideal signing for Nottingham Forest | Getty Images/NationalWorld

Currently playing with Corinthians, Murillo Santiago Costa dos Santos had a peripatetic youth career which saw him play for four different sides before settling down with his current club in 2019 – and since then he’s flourished, becoming a regular first-teamer in both Série A and the Copa Libertadores.

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While he hasn’t been called up to any of the Brazilian age group squads as yet, his progress through the ranks hasn’t only drawn attention in Nottingham – Napoli had a bid rejected last month. The reigning Italian champions seem to have moved on, signing Nathan from RB Bragantino for €3.5m instead. That seems understandable when reports in Brazil suggest that Murillo could cost up to £17m. His services won’t come cheap if Forest want them.

Whether he can justify the potentially lofty price tag or not, Murillo is certainly a talented player. Very much a modern, ball-playing central defender, he’s almost the inverse of the stereotypical centre-half of old – he’s under 5’10” in height and attempts fewer than two tackles per game, but he’s technically-gifted, quick, and strong with the ball at his feet.

A naturally left-footed centre-back who can also play wide left in a pinch, Murillo is at his best when he’s pushing as far as possible up the pitch, closing moves down, intercepting attempted passes and getting the ball forward as quickly as possible. He tries a decent number of high-risk balls and is comfortable dribbling, with a very decent success rate when it comes to beating his man.

And while he’s far from dominant in the air, he is good at tracking back and sweeping up when the high line is beaten, recording five-and-a-half clearances per game in the Brazilian top tier so far this season. All of this should suit Forest pretty well, with Steve Cooper preferring to play an aggressively high line and keep the ball down after turnovers.

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Of course, given his age, Murillo is far from the finished product, and there is some polishing still to be done before he can be called a Premier League-level defender. His tackling success rate of 40% is mediocre, and he takes too many yellow cards lunging in – he will give away the occasional silly foul and leave himself stuck on a booking, which will put him in tricky positions against first-rate attacking players at times.

He also needs to iron out his decision making, and for a ball-playing midfielder his passing completion rate of 81% is definitely on the low side – a by-product of pushing for too many lethal balls when simple plays would be the better option.

He’s also most certainly not a goalscorer – not that anyone would be signing him for that, of course – and doesn’t present an imposing presence at set pieces. Not that he’d finish many chances he got anyway, based on the evidence of a recent Libertadores game against Liverpool (the Uruguayan one, obviously). Murillo somehow managed to put the ball over the bar from practically beneath it at a set piece – a rather comical miss. It didn’t matter, in fairness, Corinthians were already 3-0 up and held on for a clean sheet.

The question, then, isn’t whether Murillo is a talented player – he certainly is – or whether he’d suit Nottingham Forest from a tactical perspective. It’s how long it would take a relatively inexperienced young defender, with only one season as a regular starter in his back pocket, to pay back a £17m fee. Forest have reportedly been aiming to pay closer to €15m, according to Brazilian reports, and there is no word yet on how negotiations are going, nor even confirmation that they are underway. With other targets such as Dinamo Zagreb’s highly-rated Josip Sutalo also on their radar, they may well be put off if Corinthians play too tough with the pricing.

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Either way, it’s only a matter of time before a European team who like to play high up the park take a chance on the youngster, and if he gets the right coaching and experience, he could easily make a big impact in years to come.

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