Why Are Reds Turning To South America?

Forest are embracing youth & South America in their next recruitment drive – but why?

Typically, transfers are only really spoken of if used for the first team – which makes sense given the eyes on first team football – but often the players recruited at younger ages are overlooked. Every player starts their journey in the youth system, and being a Premier League side demands a successful youth development system, and Forest are now starting to embrace that, and build a sustainable future, alongside a rapport with the South American football leagues.

With PSR an ever-growing strain on sides in the Premier League, particularly those lacking the revenue & spending power, looking at acquiring talent at the “roots” of their career is something of which Forest have started do more of in recent times – notably the signings of Murillo & Danilo in South America, and at a younger level Adam Berry, the ex-Manchester United winger who joined Forest last Winter. All these signings, just to name a few, prove Forest’s recruitment strategy has certainly evolved from the hectic summer of 2022, and this year it will take its next major step.

Perhaps the greatest reason for a move to bringing in younger players for Forest is that the club is now part of a multi-club ownership model – essentially, Evangelos Marinakis is the head of Nottingham Forest, Olympiacos & Rio Ave FC – unofficially named – perhaps lacking creativity by me – the ‘Marinakis Football Group’, a name for the group I will reference now and again. Officially, the group has no name unlike the City Group or Red Bull, who run clubs across the world, but by no means does it not act like those mentioned groups – as well as ensuring off the field success, Evangelos Marinakis has hired a team of executives to head up the recruitment strategy for the group, amongst other objectives. Should Forest sign youngsters, they can move to other clubs in the group, with Rio Ave FC the most likely option, and should they show more promise, likely Olympiacos. Forest no longer have to worry about loans elsewhere – should they build a strong system with other clubs in the group, it could create a fantastic environment for growth in the clubs younger ranks, and create sustainability in the future, both with first team options and opportunities for transfer revenue.

The youngsters on Forest’s radar this summer

There is no shortage of transfer links when it comes to Nottingham Forest – 90% are typically just the talk of agents or murmurs to push forward a players status, and encourage a move, but in that 10% consists of strong links, and Forest are actually close to making some of that 10% a reality in this transfer window.

Of course the first player – it must be mentioned – is that of former St Pauli winger/wing-back Eric da Silva Moreira. The pacey, physical youngster looks to embrace his sharp development at recently promoted St Pauli, by working his way into the Forest setup in the Premier League. A regular feature in the German youth team, as well as St Pauli’s youth ranks, Moreira is one of Germanys hottest prospects. Signing for just over £1m, it is shrewd business from Nottingham Forest who look to spend less, and improve their recruitment strategy. He signs on a deal until 2028.

Another player Forest are keeping close tabs on is that of – yes another – Palmeiras player. This time it is their young Winger, Riquelme Fillipi, who has been touted with a move to the City Ground, where he would join up with ex-teammate Danilo, and fellow Brazilians Carlos Miguel & Murillo. According to South American outlet UOL, the Reds have made a €5m (£4.2m) bid for the youngster, who also faces interest from Portuguese giants Porto, and Ligue 1 Champions PSG – formidable competition to say the least, but Forest will look to share their ambition of once again challenging it be a top club, and ensure Riquelme’s involvement in that. It has been said that both Porto & PSG are yet to make an offer, and that Palmeiras are holding out for a higher offer, but Forest’s offer is still on the table, and a decision will be needed sooner or later. Should Forest overcome the doubt and win the race to sign young Riquelme, he wouldn’t join until September when he turns 18, and would require a work permit to be accepted in order to play in the country.

A more recent link for Forest is that of Aston Villa’s Lamare Borgarde. The defender, who was born in 2004, spent the entirety of 2023 on loan at League 1 side Bristol Rovers. Since signing for Villa from the acclaimed Feyenoord academy in 2020, Borgarde appeared many times in the youth ranks before heading out on loan. With the strain of PSR breathing down the neck of Aston Villa, the West Midlands giants are looking to sell academy players in order to make a full profit – Borgarde is viewed as one of those, and the player is now deciding on whether to join the Reds, in a deal worth £4m. Despite playing usually in defence, Borgarde is known to have played well in midfield, offering important versatility – now aged 20, he will be looking to achieve first team football in the near future. It also offers Forest a chance to take advantage of the u21’s Premier league registration rule, which exempts any player at or under the age of 21 from needing to be registered in the final Premier League squads in summer & winter. If Forest can have quality u21 players, it will certainly help them with depth in the first team.

Another one of Forest’s reported targets is that of Leeds winger – yes, a lot of wingers (which alludes to the pre-mentioned winger depth issue) – Wilfried Gnonto. Since signing for Leeds from Zürich back in 2022, the Italian forward has grown into an exciting youngster, with serious potential. Initially catching the eyes of Premier League fans in the 22/23 campaign for Leeds, Gnonto shone, but after some injury struggles, and a reported protest at the club after not being sold following Leeds’ relegation, eyes turned from Gnonto elsewhere. The spotlight is now back on him, and Nottingham Forest are reportedly one of the teams eager for his signature, in a deal worth – potentially – £17m. After a failed attempt at promotion, it looks almost certain that Leeds will lose one of their star men, with the Reds looking to bolster their front line depth, and steal a Championship talent for a decent price.

Why are Forest embracing youth, and South America?

For a number of reasons – earlier the idea of a multi-club model was mentioned to help with the development of players joining the various clubs. For Forest this is a factor, but the stringency required due to an ever-present PSR dictated environment means that clubs are having to be more shrewd about recruitment – recruiting young and from abroad are key components in that. South America is somewhat a gold mine for European clubs due to its seemingly unlimited pool of talent, while being at essentially “cost-price” in comparison to European/English talents for which their value is typically inflated due to their nationality.

The important balance with youth recruitment is ensuring the first-team is capable enough to sustain itself at the top level, while also allowing opportunities for the youngsters to develop. Typically – at least since returning to the Premier League – academy prospects have seldom featured, which is a harsh reality of a club like Nottingham Forest playing at the top level – a city with a smaller pool of talent, and still new to the division and its demands. I think it could be years before we see another generation of talent like we saw with Yates, Worrall, et al at the time, but with how Forest are looking to procure talent, that timespan may have reduced, and before we know it we could see more academy prospects featuring, in tern showing signs of a football club that can sustain its talent pool, more importantly spending less as a result.

More on South America: “the proof is in the pudding,” as the saying goes. Murillo – £11m – is one of the hottest defensive prospects in Europe. Chelsea & Liverpool circling. Danilo – £17m – rising up the ranks as one of the Premier League’s young midfield prospects. Just two examples, with more to be added before the window shuts. Forest’s affectionate relationship with South American football is blossoming, and the ‘fruits’ are sweet – top talent, and financial return, two key components to any sustainable, successful football club. With the success of the aforementioned South American stars, Forest will look to repeat this, and Carlos Miguel – the Corinthians Goalkeeper – will be the next to join the ‘roster’.

The strategy is seemingly changing – sustainability and lower spending at the forefront of that, but I suppose only time will tell. Encouraging signs early on.

*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Forest’s Brandon Aguilera has already shone for Costa Rica in the Copa America.

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