The Wonderkid Files: Sávio – the Brazilian starlet shining in Spain and wanted by Man City

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Sávio has been the star of Girona’s unlikely surge to the top of La Liga - but could the teenage winger be headed to Manchester City at the end of the season?

Girona’s rise from also-rans of the Spanish league to top spot in La Liga table – a position they earned after coming from behind to beat Villarreal in La Ceràmica on Wednesday evening – has partly been fuelled by the spending power of the Emirati-run City Group, but owes no small debt to one of the ownership group’s smartest signings, Sávio.

The 19-year-old winger (also sometimes known as Savinho) was scooped up by the group’s French side, Troyes, last year after impressing at Atlético Mineiro in his home country of Brazil, and after spending last year gaining experience on loan at PSV Eindhoven has started the latest leg of his loan career in Spain off at an astonishing pace – which, incidentally, is one of the many qualities that have stood out so far in a spell which has seen him register six goal contributions in as many games.

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Girona wonderkid Savio has been linked with a big move to Manchester City Girona wonderkid Savio has been linked with a big move to Manchester City
Girona wonderkid Savio has been linked with a big move to Manchester City | Getty Images/NationalWorld

Real Madrid and Barcelona have already been linked with a future transfer bid by the Spanish media, but the player himself has said that his move to Troyes was made with one eye on a switch to Manchester City at some point, and City Group are supposedly increasingly interested in moving one of their star assets to the Etihad in the near future. In the meantime, he is lighting up the Spanish top flight with some stellar performances.

He’s shone especially brightly in the last three matches, a run which has seen them beat Granada, Mallorca and now Villarreal, scoring twice and assisting another three – and the goals he’s been involved in have built a thrilling highlight reel which goes a long way to explaining why some of Europe’s biggest teams are considering making a move.

His two goals were both superb. Against Granada he was given space in the middle from 25 yards out and thrashed a thunderous shot into the top right corner of the goal. Against Mallorca he played a blisteringly quick one-two, leaving defenders for dead as he latched onto the return pass before slotting coolly home into the far side netting.

And his attacking game is extraordinarily well-rounded. He’s far more than a simple pace merchant, with quick feet and exceptional ball control, as demonstrated by his assist against Mallorca when he stood a defender up one-on-one, toasted a second for speed to make it to the byline and then cut the ball back sharply for Iván Martín to finish the job. Against Granada, he burst instantaneously between two defenders to open up the midfield and give Viktor Tsygankov the space and time to slot home.

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Nor were those brilliant pieces of ball-carrying exceptions to the rule. He completes over five progressive carries per game and successfully dribbles past nearly 3.5 players per game over the past year – numbers that put him up with the very best in world football.

And he knows what to do once he beats his man, too – as his sublime cross for Artem Dovbyk’s equalising goal against Villarreal proved, a perfectly weighted whipped cross right into the Ukrainian striker’s path.

A menace with the ball at his feet, then, and capable of scoring brilliant goals as well as teeing them up for others – but Sávio isn’t a perfectly well-rounded player. He isn’t a huge passer of the ball, although he does seem to be getting smarter about making quick interchanges around the box, and the defensive side of his game is somewhat negligible. He isn’t an effective presser or tackler and doesn’t generate many turnovers – not attributes which would necessarily endear him to a manager like Pep Guardiola should City firm up their interest down the line.

He’s also less than imposing from a physical standpoint, standing at 5’9” tall and without much in the way of muscle mass, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against more aggressive defending down the line. Happily for Sávio, his remarkable burst of acceleration is usually enough to get him quickly out of trouble.

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Sávio’s development has also been remarkably quick, so there isn’t a huge body of work to go off from before this season. His spell at PSV saw him spend more time with the reserve team than the first eleven, and he only made six Eredivisie appearances without scoring. He’s played for the Brazilian age group teams up to Under-20 level, and was a member of the team that won the South American Under-15 Championship in 2019, but he doesn’t have a huge number of international experience under his belt either. There’s always a chance that what we’re seeing at Girona proves to be a flash in the pan – although it’s hard to look over his highlight reel without seeing an immense amount of genuine quality.

As to when he might make his big move – whether it’s to City or elsewhere – that will almost certainly wait until next summer, with his focus very much on helping Girona to maintain their unlikely title challenge for the foreseeable future. If he continues to impress as he has done so far, though, it’s hard to imagine that the chequebooks won’t be opened come June. Sávio looks every inch like the real deal, and is a whole ton of fun to watch.

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