1. Éverton Ribeiro (Cruzeiro)
While Cruzeiro’s title win must be attributed primarily to the wealth of options available to unflappable coach Marcelo Oliveira, their cause was boosted by the emergence of one player in particular. Éverton Ribeiro, a trusted cohort of Oliveira’s from their time together at Coritiba, graduated from the Brazilian School of Intermittent YouTube Promise to become a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
A tricky dribbler from the right flank, his guile has proved the perfect counterpoint to the more bludgeoning style of fellow attackers Borges, Ricardo Goulart and Júlio Baptista. A series of wonder goals (the best of which channel the fleet-footed witchcraft of Lionel Messi) have only added to his cult appeal. Expect European clubs to come a-sniffing.
2. Walter (Goiás)
Once touted as the next big thing, a series of career missteps took Walter from Champions League regulars Porto to the Brazilian second division in the blink of an eye. But having fired Goiás back into Série A in 2012, the striker seems set on making up for lost time. He has played like a man possessed this term, wowing neutrals with his awareness and technique.
And if Walter has at times carried the Emeralds on his shoulders, it is only because he is used to bearing the extra weight: he tipped the scales at 96kg earlier this year and remains very much on the portly side despite his exertions. All of which makes him okay by us.
3. Alex Telles (Grêmio)
It’s been a strange old season for Grêmio. A glance at the Série A table suggests they’ve performed well, yet 2013 still feels like an opportunity missed given the resources at their disposal. The Gringo strike pairing of Eduardo Vargas and Hernán Barcos hasn’t truly clicked, while injuries to Elano and Zé Roberto have disrupted what was a productive midfield.
One bright spot has been left-(wing)back Alex Telles, who has performed with aplomb. Swashbuckling in attack but also solid on the back foot, he has displayed maturity beyond his 20 years and has already been linked with a switch to Porto. One for the future.
4. Éderson (Atlético-PR)
Relatively unheralded before this season, Éderson has been the trump card for over-achieving Atlético Paranaense. Busy and tenacious, he has snaffled 18 goals so far, making him the league’s top scorer. The 24-year-old is also adaptable, shining alongside both the gangly Marcelo and the more conventional Dellatorre, and capable of leading the line alone. A move to one of Brazil’s more traditional powerhouses could be on the cards.
5. Clarence Seedorf (Botafogo)
Botafogo fans may have lost patience with their flagging side in recent weeks, but hindsight will cast the Rio side’s season in a more generous light – even if they end up missing out on Copa Libertadores qualification. With injuries and enforced sales depriving coach Oswaldo de Oliveira of options all over the pitch, a core group of players has had to step up, digging deep after the early-season sparkle wore off.
You may not expect a storied old hand like Clarence Seedorf to truly invest in such a struggle, but the Dutchman continues to impress with his commitment to the cause. Even during dips in form, he has been virtue personified – not just on the pitch, where his passing and decision-making remain razor-sharp as ever, but also in dealings with the press and fans. If Botafogo do fall short, no one will be more hard done by than the mercurial veteran.
Jack Lang writes about Brazilian football for the Guardian, ESPN FC, When Saturday Comes and WhoScored, among others.
Follow him on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop
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