Vitor Roque: The next big star out of South America – scout report
At 17 years old, with a £4.23M price tag on his shoulders, Vitor Roque walked into the historic Mineirão and put two goals past the current champions, Atlético Mineiro, in Athletico Paranaense’s recent 3-2 victory. The Mineirão, a place he called home in his Cruzeiro days, became his stage once again as he scored an unbelievable goal to thrust his name into the spotlight.
Four days later, in the Copa Libertadores quarter-final, Vitor Roque scored the game-winning goal in the 95th minute to send Athletico into the semi-finals. With only eight months of professional football, the 17-year-old kid has moments some players could only dream of.
After breaking into Cruzeiro’s first team in early 2022, Brazil soon fell in love with the young teenager from the small town of Timóteo, Minas Gerais, who played with such satisfying freedom and joy.
Former Inter, Barcelona and Real Madrid legend Ronaldo, who had just become Cruzeiro’s owner, instantly began talks of a new deal with the promising star. However, weeks later, Athletico Paranense lured the teenager with the promise of Série A and Libertadores football. His release clause was triggered, and the 17-year-old kid made the move to the team from Paraná.
Despite the pressure at such a young age, Roque broke straight into Athletico Paranense’s first team, even scoring on his Libertadores debut. This scout report will identify why Vitor Roque could be one of the biggest stars to come out of South America in recent years. Through tactical analysis, and considering Felipão’s tactics, the Brazilian’s characteristics and playing style will be examined in this scout report.
In order to contextualise this analysis, it is important to first understand Vitor Roque’s positioning. At Cruzeiro, as the then 16-year-old broke into the senior team, he was often deployed on the wings. Under Felipão, however, Vitor Roque has played as a centre-forward. Vitor’s dynamic profile allows him to perform multiple roles in the attack, and Felipão takes advantage of this. Whether in a two-striker formation or alone up top, Vitor’s relentless movement makes him a dangerous weapon, able to constantly find space within the defensive organisation.
His 2022 heatmap further illustrates this. In a strike partnership, he is mostly used on the right side, constantly drifting wide. That, combined with his Cruzeiro days, explain the strong activity on the right side of the attack. Nonetheless, his movement bleeds all over the opposition half, highlighting his positional versatility.
Vitor Roque has tremendous physical abilities. His speed and willingness to drive at defenders make him a dangerous weapon on the wing, however, he is not the most skilful. His ball control and dribbling are not as smooth as other wingers. On the other hand, he has significant strength for his age and very intelligent movement. Although he was dangerous on the wing, his optimal position is up front, finding space and finishing chances.
Vitor Roque’s tactical awareness is quite impressive, especially for a 17-year-old with little professional experience. Not only can he find the decisive extra yard in the box to finish chances, but he can also play a significant role in possession. He is constantly moving and searching for space, whether to get involved in possession or disorganise the defence and create space for others. As a number nine, this often tends to cause confusion among the defenders.
For instance, in the example below, he is able to perform link-up play with his teammate and put him in the dangerous assist zone. As his teammate drives inside, Vitor explodes into the space ahead of the backline to receive the ball. After receiving it, he immediately plays it into space for his teammate to attack.
Vitor is also able to get involved in earlier stages of possession. Against Corinthians, the Brazilian drops deep into the midfield to receive the ball from his centre-back. In most cases, the opposition centre-back will not follow him that deep into the midfield. As a consequence, he is able to roam freely in the central lanes or at least create numerical superiority. In the example below, he receives it between defensive lines before turning and driving forward.
The Mineiro star also has incredible hold-up play, especially due to his outstanding strength. When he receives it with his back to goal, he is able to hold defenders off and link with his teammates. Additionally, he is able to perform as a traditional target man when his team chooses to go long. Despite only being 172cm tall, he averages 4.5 aerial duels per 90. With his vast resources, he is able to control long balls and instantly involve his teammates.
The 17-year-old is incredibly dynamic with his movement. In positional attacks, he is able to find spaces within the defensive organisation and play almost as a false nine. In other scenarios, he can perform as a traditional target man with his impressive hold-up play. Roque is far from a one-trick-pony, but rather a dynamic forward able to perform multiple roles in possession.
As a true number nine, Vitor has a natural “cheiro de gol”, as they would say it in Brazil. This phrase is commonly used to describe forwards who are always in the right place at the right time, constantly scoring goals. This statement could not describe Vitor Roque better. In the 95th minute of the second-leg of the Libertadores quarter-final, as Athletico desperately searched for a last-minute winner to send them to the next phase, it was the 17-year-old Vitor Roque who got on the end of a hopeless cross to put the ball in the back of the net.
In 2022, the centre-forward has 0.66 goals per 90 despite mostly coming off the bench. His xG per 90 is not far off, at 0.42 per 90. This is done through his 2.56 shots per 90, a significant but not out-of-this-world volume. His shot map below illustrates where these are from. Nearly all of his goals are around the six-yard box, highlighting his ability to constantly find space in the penalty area and get on the end of chances.
In the last section, his constant movement all over the pitch was examined. Despite that, he is constantly able to get on the end of chances and effectively occupy the box as the last man.
His goalscoring ability is a combination of multiple factors, making him an incredibly dynamic threat. His physical capability is perhaps the most notable of them. The 17-year-old has tremendous speed and, as seen below, he is constantly able to beat defenders to the ball. As Athletico attack from the right wing, Vitor sprints into the box. When the cross is launched, he is well-ahead of the centre-back and finishes with ease.
His strength also allows him to finish chances despite having defenders around him. His first goal for the Furacão, against Cuiabá, is the best example of this. As the ball falls in the box, Vitor fights off two defenders, controls the ball, and turns with incredible speed to perform a powerful finish.
The 17-year-old is also very versatile in his finishing ability. Essentially, he scores in every way possible. In addition to being able to finish with both feet, his aerial ability is excellent, especially considering his short height. Against Uruguay, Roque’s jumping ability is on display as he rises above everyone and heads it into the top corner.
One of the main factors that separate the best goal-scorers from the rest is their intelligence in the box, and Vitor Roque has certainly displayed that. The 17-year-old is constantly interacting with every action the defenders perform, exploiting every mistake.
This is illustrated in the example below. When the first defender begins looking at the ball, he slows his run and gets in the centre-back’s blind spot. With the defender losing track of him, he accelerates into the first post and finishes the cross.
In this other example, as his teammate drives forward, Vitor drifts inside, away from his defender. After this separation is created, he freely attacks the space behind the backline and scores his first goal of the night.
Finally, his movement in the box allowed him to score his first Libertadores goal, just five minutes into his debut. After receiving the throw-in, his teammate drives inside. Vitor, who had originally gone wide to be an option, runs back inside to receive the ball. As his teammate plays it, he holds his run and allows the ball to go past him and into the space in front of the goal. From a tight angle, he powerfully finishes it into the top corner.
Vitor Roque’s dynamic and intelligent ability make him such a well-rounded goalscoring threat. His excellent finishing ability allows him to finish extremely difficult chances, in addition to the easy ones he gets by being in the right place at the right time.
As noted at the beginning of this analysis, Vitor is not an incredible dribbler. He is not one to perform fancy skill moves or thrive in tight spaces. Nonetheless, he still averages 5.42 dribbles per 90 with an exact 50% success rate. Whether to create an extra inch of space with quick body feints or attack space with his speed, he is very objective and simple in his dribbling.
His beautiful goal against Galo is an example of how he uses feints to create minimal yet significant space. As he receives the ball from the wing, he initially feints to his left before taking the first touch to his right.
Being sold by the move, the defender is stumbling as he tries to recover. When he recovers, Vitor performs a sharp turn into his favourite right foot. With this move, he is able to create space and launch an incredible finish into the top corner.
He is also able to use his dribbling to exploit his significant speed. In 1v1 situations with space in front, his favourite move is to knock the ball one way and go the other. As he is very fast, he will frequently beat the defender to the ball and drive into space.
Vitor Roque’s dribbling is simple yet effective. He is aware of his abilities and uses his dribbling to maximise his strengths. However, this does make him less dangerous dribbling-wise. When crowded or in tight spaces, he struggles. If there is one area to improve, it is certainly his ball control.
Vitor Roque’s transition to professional football has been incredible, especially considering his age. Felipão is carefully managing his development and minutes, but when called upon, he has answered.
Obviously, at 17, there are many aspects of his game that are rather raw and must be developed. However, his natural talent and tremendous physical ability are generational. Vitor is one of the best centre-forwards in the world for his age group, and over the next few years, he could be one of the most promising players to come out of South America.