Teenage dream comes true
© AFP

When Sao Paulo lifted the Brazilian Championship trophy in 2006, their U-17 team defender Breno Rodrigues Borges dreamed of being at the Morumbi, surrounded by family and friends, watching his idols celebrate the successful defence of their crown. And while the youngster and those closest to him were at the hallowed stadium to witness the Tricolor Paulista beat America-RN to seize their fifth league crown earlier this month, the script had not unfolded in accordance with his fantasy.

Not that Breno will have had any complaints given that, following a meteoric ascent into the senior side, he was one of the players parading the Brasileiro prize in front of a euphoric crowd, which included his loved ones.

"I never imagined that this would happen," he explained afterwards. "When Sao Paulo won the title last year, I was training with the youth team. If I hadn't turned professional and been promoted into the team, I would have definitely have come to the Morumbi to watch the game."

"But here I am - a champion. It's an incredible feeling, a dream come true. I must thank Muricy (Ramalho, Sao Paulo coach) for keeping my feet on the ground. Now I can take this title with me for the rest of my life."

Leading role
Despite only turning 18 last month, Breno has been anything but a bit-part player in Sao Paulo's triumphant campaign. Conversely, he has been not only one of his squad's top performers, but also one of the most outstanding in the entire division. His position in the race for Placar Magazine's Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball), awarded to the player with the highest average match-rating over the course of the Brasileiro, serves as evidence.

The honour has perennially eluded central defenders and, in fact, has only gone to one Brazilian zagueiro since its foundation in 1973 (ironically another Sao Paulo representative, Ricardo Rocha in 1989). The teenage custodian could, however, be set to double this figure. With two rounds remaining, Breno (6.26 from 26 games) is in with a chance of usurping Fluminense playmaker Thiago Neves (6.33 from 30 games) in the quest to emulate the likes of Zico, Falcao, Careca, Romario and Kaka, the Tricolor Paulista's last recipient.

And if challenging a positional monopoly is not impressive enough in itself, then, should he pip Thiago Neves, Breno will surpass Liverpool's former Gremio midfielder Lucas as the Bola de Ouro's youngest-ever winner.

Irrespective of the outcome of this individual battle, Breno's towering displays in crucial games have been a chief factor in his team claiming domestic gold. He was a colossus as Sao Paulo overcame Botafogo 2-0 in their top-of-the-table clash at the Maracana in August, turned in standout performances in their home-and-away victories over fellow contenders Santos, and gave a flawless account of himself as they stole a 1-0 win at high-flying Palmeiras, their cross-state enemies. Overall, his form has helped them concede just 15 goals in 36 contests.

Coveted signature
This form did not go unnoticed. Bayern Munich's interest in signing him has been no secret, but it is Real Madrid that have been leading the chase for the defender whose reading of the game defies his inexperience. Athletic, powerful and good on the ball, it is no wonder the Spanish superpower are reportedly ready to part with mega-bucks to prise him across the Atlantic.

Although he admits that it would be an honour to walk out in the Merengues colours, Breno feels a devotion to his current employers, whom he is contracted to until 2011. "Who doesn't want to play for Real Madrid? It's a childhood dream for so many players," he said.

"But I leave all of this to my father and my agents. My head is with Sao Paulo. I'm very happy here, to be part of this great squad. I'd like to continue at Sao Paulo at least until next year, to help defend the club in the Copa Libertadores."

Breno's destiny, be it now of later, appears to be Europe, though, and when he does leave the club he will be fondly remembered, just as former defensive stalwarts such as Mauro, Dario Pereyra, Oscar, Ricardo Rocha and Diego Lugano are by the fans.

Sao Paulo mourned the death of the legendary Bauer in February of this year. An icon of the 1940s and 1950s, he broke into the first-team as a teenager and made a stunning impression. It is a nice coincidence that within two months of his passing, Breno began to continue this trend.