Benfica have a Renato Sanches-shaped hole to fill in their midfield this summer. One name that has been recurrently linked with the club is that of Grêmio youngster Walace. We find out more about the Brazilian midfielder from Jordan Russell of Futebol Planeta.
Walace Souza Silva - commonly known as Walace - is one of the most highly rated youngsters in his homeland of Brazil. He made his Grêmio debut in April 2014, but plays as if he has been part of their midfield for many years. A standout performer in recent months, particularly in the Copa Libertadores, he looks ready to take the next step in his career. Everything points towards this being the right time for him to prove himself in Europe.
Walace is a 'volante' or defensive midfielder, but that shouldn’t detract from his ability to drive his team forward. A powerful runner without the ball, he is also capable of protecting it at his feet. The 21-year old lends balance to Grêmio, who, unusually for a Brazilian side, are often guilty of pushing too many men forward and leaving space for their opponents to exploit.
Excellent technique blended with considerable physical strength has led to comparisons with Juventus star Paul Pogba, although Walace is far less proficient in the final third. Typically deployed at the base of Grêmio's midfield three, he is also somewhat reminiscent of Real Madrid's Casemiro. Fortunately, Walace has shown no signs of the attitude problems that blighted Casemiro’s early career at São Paulo.
Walace has the physicality to become a dominant player in the centre of the pitch. He is a fine athlete who can cover a lot of ground. The Brazilian is calm and collected, and has the requisite close control to take the sting out of a game when needed. With every passing week, Walace looks more mature and increasingly ready to test himself at a top European club.
He could improve his decision making in advanced positions. This might not be essential for a defensive midfielder, but it would allow him to become a more complete player. Besides this, he possesses all of the basics to become one of the world's best players in his position.
Most European clubs would welcome a player of Walace's characteristics, so Benfica have plenty of competition. Arsenal and Tottenham have both been credited with an interest, while Inter and Lazio have emerged as the favourites for his signature in recent weeks.
Members of the Grêmio hierarchy have made bold statements to the effect that they would not accept anything less than what Juventus expect to receive for Paul Pogba (€90 to 100 million). However, given the economic situation that most Brazilian clubs find themselves in, the Porto Alegre club cannot demand anywhere near that figure. They are likely to settle for something around the €10 million mark, a reasonable sum for an academy product with just a couple of years remaining on his current contract.
How he would fit in at Benfica
With Renato Sanches on his way to Bayern Munich, it is imperative that Benfica bring in at least one central midfielder this summer. Talisca is a hugely talented young player, but he is not equipped to protect the back four, leaving Andreas Samaris and the injury-prone Ljubomir Fejsa as Rui Vitória’s only credible midfield options. Walace would offer defensive solidity, and has the technical ability to participate in Benfica’s free-flowing, attacking football.
Likelihood of a move to Lisbon
4/10. Inter and Lazio are hardly in the rudest of financial health, while Arsenal are reportedly close to the £30 million signing of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka. Tottenham have a new stadium to pay for, so it remains to be seen just how heavily they will invest in their playing squad this summer. With Benfica's track record in the South American market, you wouldn’t bet against them completing another transfer coup with Walace.
Full name: Walace Souza Silva
DOB: 4th April 1995 (Age 21)
Club: Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense
Position: Defensive Midfield
Height: 1.88 m
Preferred foot: Right