The Olympic soccer tournament is a big deal in Brazil. But since South America only has two spots, qualifying isn’t easy.
Brazil, for example, failed to make the cut in 1992 and 2004 and had to sweat for their spot at the Tokyo Games.
The qualifying tournament was played in early 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic shook the world, and Brazil were going into their last game against Argentina and still needed a win.
It was a time for big decisions – and the manager opted to leave out the team’s star winger, Antony of Sao Paulo.
It turned out to be the right choice. Brazil got the win they needed and their attack worked better without the services of a player who, while clearly talented, was very raw.
Left footed but operating on the right flank, Antony kept taking the ball and then interfering on his stronger side, slowing the team’s rhythm and giving the opposing defense time to organize.
It had every right not to be the finished article. Antony was just a teenager. There was a lot to do – and a lot of it ended up happening at Ajax.
In mid-2020, Antony swapped Sao Paulo for Amsterdam and started a relationship with Erik ten Hag.
The 22-year-old winger is a much-improved version of his teenage self and the new Manchester United manager is certainly entitled to some of the credit.
Where he was once a raw talent, he now looks like a footballer. He can operate on either wing and wherever he goes his choice is far better than before. His weaker right foot has developed.
He can now go out to the touchline or cut in from either side, he’s much more aware of what’s around him and he can also work back behind the line of the ball.
The player, who missed out on the crucial qualifier, eventually became a key part of the team that won Olympic gold in Tokyo last year – the fact that the games were postponed by a year certainly worked to his advantage, and he did has since been promoted to the senior team of Brazil.
With Raphinha on one flank and Vinicius Junior racing on the other, these are not easy times for a winger to break into the Brazilian side.
But given the chances he got off the bench, Antony did very well.
No wonder then that ten Hag wanted to take the player to Old Trafford. In fact, the move became a powerful possibility from the moment the Dutchman was picked to take over at Manchester United.
With the club’s tradition of dashing wing play and personal connection with ten Hag, Antony looks like a player ready to don the famous red shirt.
For a price. The problem here is the fortune United have already spent to sign Argentina centre-back Lisandro Martinez from Ajax. This deal set standards.
United returned to the same club in search of a player younger, more glamorous and more of a consolidated international than Martinez.
The asking price was obviously enormous. But if Antony repeats the form he showed at Ajax under mentor ten Hag, the deal could be well spent.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6124530/man-utd-antony-transfer-fee-ten-hag/ The £85.5million transfer fee for Man Utd new boy Antony is huge but he has the potential to become a Premier League success under mentor ten Hag