Robert Renan: Why the 19-year-old is one of the most exciting centre-backs emerging from South America – scout report
For decades, Brazil has been a hotspot for young and promising players. Most of the time, these prospects tend to be skilful and talented forwards who entertain through flair. In recent years, players like Real Madrid’s Vini Jr. or Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli have left South America with the spotlight on them for their entertaining and exciting style.
There are hardly, however, defenders grabbing the headlines. Although players like Serie A’s Roger Ibañez and Bremer have recently entered the global stage, Brazilian centre-backs rarely leave the country with the public eye on them.
Robert Renan may prove to be the exception. In fact, Renan’s entire profile revolves around breaking the norm and being unique. The left-footed centre-back has recently broken into Corinthians’ first team despite being just 19 years old, exactly 10 years after PSG’s Marquinhos rose out of the same academy. Robert Renan, who is a regular in Brazil’s youth national teams, is an extremely technical and composed centre-back capable of playing an important role in and out of possession.
As the Filho do Terrão rose through the academy, there was always doubt about whether this composure and technical style of play would translate into the senior team. These questions were quickly put to rest as Renan displayed a rare tranquillity in his first few matches for Timão. Since making his debut, the 19-year-old has become one of Vitor Pereira’s reliable options at the back.
In this scout report, we will break down Robert Renan’s profile through in-depth statistical and tactical analysis. More specifically, this analysis will look at Robert Renan’s characteristics and involvement in and out of possession.
Robert Renan is a left-footed 19-year-old centre-back with a rather unique profile. The Brazilian only has 13 professional games under his belt, having broken into the first team towards the end of the 2022 campaign. After a few opportunities in the Copa do Brasil, Vitor Pereira quickly realised the 19-year-old’s potential and slowly integrated him into the squad. Obviously, at such a young age, there are raw aspects to his game that must be developed with care. Nonetheless, Renan has been able to quickly adapt to Vitor Pereira’s tactics and mature his game at the senior level.
Physically, Robert Renan may lack the desired stature for a centre-back at just 186cm (6’1”). This lack of height naturally limits his aerial ability, and that may be perhaps the only weakness in his profile. Nonetheless, Renan is able to make up for this lack of physical stature through aware and technical defensive engagement.
As we will examine later on, the Brazilian is able to provide an extremely effective defensive presence through intelligent positioning, great mobility and acceleration, and technical defending. Similar to Marquinhos or Lisandro Martínez, Renan makes up for a lack of height with a complete defensive profile.
As he is left-footed, Robert has consistently played on the left of a centre-back duo. Below, his heatmap in the Série A 2022 further illustrates his movement and positioning on the pitch. He is incredibly mobile, and despite being the left centre-back, he is able to cover a lot of ground with and without the ball. It is also notable how much his movement drifts into the final third. In possession, Renan is able to make use of his passing ability by advancing forward and picking out dangerous passes. Out of possession, he is also able to step up and close down opposition whether in pressing or counter-pressing scenarios.
Although it is from a much smaller sample size, we are able to see how Man United’s Lisandro Martínez has a very similar heatmap. The Argentinian centre-back is perhaps the closest player, stylistically, to Robert Renan. In addition to being left-footed, they have extremely similar characteristics in and out of possession. However, at least in potential, Renan looks to be much more technical and dangerous on the ball.
With the ball, Robert Renan has a dynamic and promising profile. The 19-year-old is able to play a significant role in possession, with 47.6 passes per 90 in the Série A 2022. With a further look, we are able to break down his passing profile and see how exactly Renan performs in possession.
With 18.14 forward passes per 90, at a 78.98% completion rate, he looks to progress forward quite often with his passing. Additionally, with 23.22 lateral passes per 90 (96.52%), he is also able to retain possession with extreme efficiency. When looking to go forward, Renan has a dynamic arsenal. The Brazilian averaged an impressive 7.97 progressive passes per 90 in the Série A, highlighting his ability to break lines and help his team progress through the thirds. In fact, he also averaged 5.66 passes to the final third per 90. Finally, he is also capable of playing it long when necessary, with 5.66 long passes per 90 at an efficient 56.9% success rate.
Below, Robert Renan’s pass map in the Série A 2022 further illustrates this passing profile. The volume quickly stands out, but the variety in range and location is also impressive.
This involvement begins right from the build-up. Robert Renan is extremely composed under pressure, and in the build-up, he is constantly able to exploit gaps and holes in the opposition’s high press. In the example below, against Uruguay, Renan has two opposition players running at him in his own third. Renan is able to play an inch-perfect pass through them and find Andrey Santos with time and space to advance. His awareness is especially impressive. He is constantly able to find his teammates throughout the pitch without taking too long on the ball.
As mentioned, Renan is also able to play long passes with great efficiency. His passing range further increases his threat on the ball. If space is left anywhere on the pitch, he is often able to find it and exploit it. In the instance below, against Coritiba’s mid-block, he is able to play a well-weighted ball in behind to Roger Guedes.
Now against Santos, Robert is able to play a long switch to the right-back, who has significant space to exploit. Despite being a centre-back, Renan is able to perform as the orchestrator in possession, getting on the ball, dictating the tempo, and finding his teammates throughout the opposition half.
The 19-year-old’s involvement in the final third is another aspect of his game that sets him apart. As seen in his heatmap, Renan likes to advance into the opposition’s half, especially with the ball. Against a low block, centre-backs are normally the extra player as most opposition teams prefer to leave an extra man to cover in the backline. Robert is often able to exploit this by carrying the ball forward and attacking space.
If a defender steps up, it means another player is free. If not, he has time to pick out dangerous passes in the final third. In his penetrating carries map below, we are able to see how often Renan carries the ball across the middle third, especially on the left half-space.
When he gets into these areas, the Brazilian is able to pick out extremely dangerous passes. As seen earlier, he has extreme control of his passes, often being able to squeeze passes through tight channels. Against Uruguay, we are able to see how he initiated Brazil’s fourth goal by finding the centre-forward just outside the box.
In addition to these line-breaking passes through the defensive organisation, he can also go over the top with perfectly weighted long balls. For instance, as the opposition’s backline stays quite high, he plays a ball over the top to leave his teammate in front of the goal.
Since making his debut for the senior team, Robert Renan has performed extremely well defensively. Similar to his style with the ball, Renan is calm and composed defensively. His actions are calculated, and his movement is aware. Rather than intensively running around for the sake of it, he is always effortlessly in the right position.
With only 4.85 defensive duels per 90, he chooses his engagement very carefully. He is effective, with a success rate of 61.9% and only 0.61 fouls per 90. His interceptions are quite high at 5.66 per 90, highlighting his ability to read the opposition and anticipate passes. In total, he averages an impressive 8.78 successful defensive duels per 90,
His defensive territory, as seen below, is quite similar to his heatmap. The young defender is clearly able to support the left-back and defend the flank quite well. Additionally, he is able to step up and defend in high areas. Overall, his mobility is especially notable.
As a matter of fact, his defensive involvement in high areas is very impressive. Whether when in high presses or in defensive transitions, he is able to engage before the middle third and keep the opposition from progressing. His high regains map below illustrates how he is able to cover a lot of ground and keep the opposition from launching a counterattack.
Against Goiás, we are able to see an example of Renan’s anticipation. As the opposition midfielder looks to reach the centre-forward, he is able to read it and with his acceleration, intercept it.
With his acceleration and intelligent positioning, he is also able to immediately close opponents down and challenge for the ball. In the instance below, when the player receives it, Renan is already there to perform a surgical tackle and recover the ball.
He is also constantly able to cover for his teammates. Below, for instance, after Vitor Roque goes past Balbuena, Robert is able to cover for him and immediately close Athletico Paranaense’s forward down. When Roque attempts to shoot, Robert is able to block it. His movement not only allows him to perform well defensively but also to cover for his teammates.
Robert Renan is one of the most exciting centre-backs in South America, if not the world. In 2022, the 19-year-old was able to break into Corinthians’ senior team and secure his spot in the squad. Now, Robert is on track to have a breakthrough season in 2023 and with such a unique profile, it won’t be long before European clubs are coming after the Brazilian centre-back.