Are Paris Saint-Germain about to get their hands on a teenage, Brazilian version of Declan Rice?

It is an open secret that the French giants are very interested in 18-year-old Gabriel Moscardo of Corinthians, and that a deal could well go through as soon as the transfer window opens. A tall central midfielder with an air of command about him, over the second half of 2023 Moscardo has shown himself able to protect the Corinthians' defence, set moves into motion with his passing ability, and also drive the team forward with the ball at his feet. The comparison with Rice, the midfielder that moved to Arsenal from West Ham United for £100 million in July 2023, is obvious, and has been made ever since Moscardo broke into the Corinthians first team a mere six months ago.

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The player who soon will surely be dreaming of taking on the giants of European football made his senior debut at the end of June, coming off the bench in a Copa Libertadores tie against Liverpool of Uruguay. A few days later came his first start, in a Brazilian league game against Red Bull Bragantino, and he was on his way. He has now reached the grand total of 25 appearances.

This is almost exactly the same amount of games as former teammate Murillo played for Corinthians before joining Nottingham Forest. The cycles are becoming so short because Brazilian football is an export industry, and the European clubs want to take promising youngsters as soon as possible. This can leave the Brazilian teams top-heavy with veterans. The average age of the Fluminense team that took on Manchester City in the final of the Club World Cup was over 31, and the 2023 model Corinthians were similar.

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There was, however, a key difference -- Fluminense were successful, winning the Copa Libertadores. While Corinthians did make it to two semifinals -- the domestic cup and the Copa Sudamericana -- in general they had a very poor year, and towards the end of the season were looking anxiously over their shoulder, worried about being caught up in the battle against relegation.

All of this meant that Moscardo had a tricky introduction to senior football. He was thrown in the deep end to form part of a team that was in danger of drowning. For an 18-year-old to step into central midfield in this context required strength of personality, but youth team coach Eduardo Vergueiro never doubted that Moscardo had what it takes, both technically and mentally.

Vergueiro helped to groom Moscardo at the Atleta Cidadão club in São José dos Campos, upstate São Paulo, before the pair both went to the capital to join Corinthians. Originally an attacking midfielder, Moscardo was dropped deeper by his coach.

"I transformed him into a holding midfielder because he had the ability to read the game, could pass with quality and could take good decisions." Vergueiro told Globo Esporte.

A student of business administration (as well as English), Moscardo showed his coach that he could run the game from his new position.

"That capacity to read the game helped him, he was very good at filling the spaces that his teammates left and covering for them, and he was good in the air," he said. "When I played him as a holding midfielder he stood out and was approved in this position."

PSG target Gabriel Moscardo only made his debut for Corinthians in June, but comparisons with England international Declan Rice are clear to see. Ricardo Moreira/Getty Images

There is, however, much more to Moscardo than a mere defensive midfielder.

"I like the position," the teenager said after his senior debut. "At a club like Corinthians there's a lot of pressure to give your all, to run a lot and mark the opposition. But I also have some technical qualities. I can play as a No. 8, I think I have the strength to get into the penalty area and finish off the moves."

By the end of the year Corinthians fans could readily agree.

Probably the most important game of the season came in late November, three rounds from the end. Corinthians were away to Vasco da Gama in a tense battle between two teams threatened with relegation, and twice they went behind. At 2-2 Moscardo scored the only goal of his career so far, a crashing shot from outside the area that effectively won the game for his side and ensure survival. Next time out, at home to Internacional, his driving run to the byline gave him the chance to pull the ball back for Ángel Romero to blast home. Moscardo celebrated with the Corinthians supporters, probably aware that this was likely to be a farewell.

Corinthians need the transfer fee to fund a rebuilding of their squad. Rice, in the end, was tempted away from West Ham, and Moscardo, after a much quicker cycle, looks set for a similar journey on his way across the Atlantic.