Wanderers bring on Brazilian duo João Morelli and Eriks Santos for 2020

HFX Wanderers are adding a pair of Brazilians with European experience to their Canadian Premier League squad.

Attacking midfielder João Morelli and defender Eriks Santos, both 23, were unveiled as the club’s latest signings on Tuesday, with the hope being that Morelli can bolster a Wanderers offence that scored a league-low 21 goals in 2019.

“Morelli can make that final pass and has shown he can score goals from open play or dead ball situations which we lacked last season,” coach Stephen Hart said.

“Santos is composed at the back and looks very good in the air and of course his defending qualities have been developing in some difficult leagues.”

Morelli joins the Wanderers after a season in Estonia’s top flight with FC Levadia. He also enjoyed previous spells in England.

Morelli saw his best stretch come at Levadia where he scored 16 goals in 22 games in 2017. He returned to England for a spell with Fleetwood Town before returning to Levadia in 2019.

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“I’m really excited, I see the football there is growing really fast in Canada and I think I can bring something different and some Brazilian blood and try to put on a show and bring victories and goals,” Morelli said.

Juninho, a former Middlesbrough player and a 2002 World Cup winner with Brazil, saw Morelli’s potential with Sao Paulo’s Ituano FC, a club he owned when Morelli was a teenager. The Brazilian legend arranged for the then-18-year-old’s move to Middlesbrough in 2015. He went on to make 26 appearances with their under-23s side.

Eriks Santos with FC Mariupol in Ukraine. (FC Mariupol).
Eriks Santos with FC Mariupol in Ukraine. (FC Mariupol).

Santos came through famed Brazilian club Internacional, and is signing for Halifax after two seasons in the Georgian Premier League, where he made 39 appearances for FC Dila Gori at centre back and left fullback. Santos, who also appeared for Ukrainian top-flight side FC Mariupol, signed his first professional deal with Internacional as a 16-year-old and won the under-15 Copa America with Brazil in 2013.

“I feel very happy, I want good things to happen for the team and I think the league can be a very strong league and I really want to play my best,” Santos said.

HFX now has 21 players signed for the 2020 season, including the club’s two CPL-U SPORTS Draft picks Cory Bent and Jake Ruby.

The Wanderers will open the 2020 regular season on Easter Monday away to York9 FC. Their home opener is April 25 vs. Atlético Ottawa.