Uruguay head coach Marcelo Bielsa has launched a wave of criticism at South American teams letting their best young talents leave for Europe.

Bielsa is preparing his team to face powerhouse Brazil Saturday night in Las Vegas. The game between the two South American sides is arguably the marquee matchup in the Copa America 2024 quarterfinals. After all, both sides are currently ranked as two of the top four CONMEBOL teams by FIFA.

While the Argentine manager has a tough task ahead, he touched on an interesting topic during a press conference on Friday.

Bielsa obviously spoke about the upcoming game, but he also did not shy away from discussing transfers. In particular, the coach heavily criticized South American sides selling their top young talent.

Clubs from across the continent have been selling teen prospects to big European teams for years now.

The notion is not exactly anything new. The most high-profile such instance in previous decades was Neymar’s $95 million move from Santos to Barcelona.

Neymar was just 19 at the time and the transfer was subject to an investigation of Spanish authorities.

Bielsa specifically referenced Brazil striker Endrick’s move to Europe

While South American youngsters have been shipped off to Europe in the past, there are certainly now more phenoms departing the continent. Bielsa referenced the transfers on Friday as a reporter asked the manager about the historic 1992 São Paulo team.

“Do you remember the formation of São Paulo? With a monumental coach and a formation of all Brazilian national team players, all playing in local football,” stated Bielsa.

“Look at what happened to poor South American football. Raí, Antonio Carlos, Ronaldo, Cafú, Pintado, Muller played there, all ‘European’ players, but before going to Europe they played in two Copa Libertadores finals.

Endrick is the latest to leave South American for the greener pastures of Europe
Endrick is the latest to leave South American for the greener pastures of Europe

Endrick is the latest to leave South American for the greener pastures of Europe

“What happened to football? To football, which is essentially popular property… Why? The poor have very little access to happiness because they don’t have the money to buy happiness. Football, since it is free, is of popular origin.”

Bielsa continued the rant by directly mentioning young Brazil star Endrick. The 17-year-old Palmeiras striker will soon move to global giants Real Madrid as soon as he turns 18 later this month in a deal worth around $50 million. Endrick will start for Brazil against Bielsa and Uruguay on Saturday night.

“This football, which was one of the few things that the poorest people had, no longer exists, because at 17, Endrick, the winger of Palmeiras (Estevão) … what a shame that I have to say something today that will only bring me criticism,” continued Uruguay’s coach.

South American clubs are finding it difficult to resist huge payments

Estevão, like Endrick, is set to move to Chelsea next summer after he also turns 18. The Blues will reportedly pay around $37 million for the budding star. With the two highly-rated teens, Palmeiras recently collected the Brazilian Serie A title, the Campeonato Paulista, and the Supercopa do Brasil.

The star Palmeiras players, however, are far from the only youngsters fleeing South America for Europe.

Chelsea has seemingly become fixated on purchasing teen prospects ever since the new American ownership took over in 2022. Along with Estevão, the Blues have also completed deals for Kendry Páez, Deivid Washington, Angelo, and Andrey Santos.

All four of the players were brought in from South American teams.

Nevertheless, the Blues are not the only top European side to buy top young talent from South America. Teenage prospects such as Vitor Roque (Barcelona), Luis Guilherme (West Ham), Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton), and Gabriel Moscardo (PSG) have also moved away from the continent in recent months.

Soccer transfers have undoubtedly gotten out of hand in recent years. Clubs, particularly in Europe, are generating incredible profits and, as a result, are spending more money on players.

Unfortunately for other teams, including top South American sides, it is difficult to turn down such massive offers.

Photo credits: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire : IMAGO / Sports Press Photo