He dazzled South America at the Under-17 Copa America in 2005 amongst a team that contained Anderson, Marcelo, Denilson and Renato Augusto. The star man with his electric combination football, one touch ability and deadly finishing, not to mention free kick proficiency, he was perhaps best known for his now infamous ‘seal dribble’.
After seeing his feats on YouTube as a 16 year old I was enamoured with his natural talent, even creating him on Pro Evolution Soccer and signing him for my treble winning Parma side.
So with so many young Brazilians being touted as the next big thing is it wise to apply so much pressure to these talents so young.
Kerlon can act as a warning board to those thinking of moving away from Brazil too early. Kerlon was not only a party trick aficionado, he had the entire game. Pace, skill, passing, first touch, vision, finishing, set pieces the lot; and if things had panned out differently the 24 year old would most likely be playing for one of the biggest teams in Europe.
Kerlon however suffered with niggling injuries as a youngster, potentially owing to his slight frame. At only 5ft 5ins he didn't scream physical presence. In 2008 at 20 years old he moved to Italy with Chievo without coming near to matching the original feats he had achieved when he first broke onto the scene as a 17 year old.
Chievo were a popular feeder team for Internazionale and ultimately this was the end goal for Kerlon. Inter Milan, The Nerazzurri, San Siro. Yet it didn’t happen for the diminutive creator. Knee injuries decimated his potential. A loan move to Ajax was supposed to be a fresh start for the youngster, but again the knee injuries destroyed his first team opportunities.
After 3 years with Inter Milan he had played 0 games and was signed by lowly Brazilian side Nacional de Nova Serrana. Again he suffered limited success and what brought his name back to my attention was his recent transfer. Earlier this month Kerlon signed for Japanese third tier side Fujieda MYFC.
A team funded entirely by online subscribers, similar to the system at Ebbsfleet United. The subscribers therefore have a say in the general running of the club and the idea of a footballer who can dribble the football like a seal obviously appeals to the entertainment hungry masses.
The fear for me is that his talent will surely now never be realised. This boy had it all and a combination of injury, fitness, physical development, career choices and his own online fame appears to have curtailed what could have been a legendary career.
It really upsets me to see natural talent go to waste like this as it appears Kerlon has now permanently fallen from grace and may become the first player to forever live out the best moments of his career, not on best bits TV shows or by word of mouth amongst respected pundits; but through the messageboards of YouTube.
The internet age at least can perpetually capture his talent for all to see, even if he has not become the brilliant footballer he should have; ironically becoming something of a performing seal instead.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald