Introducing Oceania’s Eleven. Throughout 2018 we will be tracking 11 promising footballers who we believe will have a breakout season in Oceania and beyond.
A few stepovers, a quick drop of the shoulder to come inside and a precise shot into the corner from the edge of the area was enough to make it 2-2.
Wilkins may not have been on the winning team that day after a late Mexico goal, but he definitely announced himself on the world stage.
It wasn’t the only impressive moment of the tournament for Wilkins, whose tricks and skills also lit up the stage against the might of Germany in the group’s final game.
That he didn’t look out of place amongst the best young footballers in the world is a sign he is destined for great things in football. Nationally his emergence alongside Bong Kalo hints at a bright future for Vanuatu, who are now officially the fastest-improving side in the world.
After a brief return to Shepherds United in his homeland he was hot property – and soon one of the biggest clubs in world football came calling.
Sao Paulo trial
Ronaldo Wilkins gets his first name from Brazilian football legend Ronaldo.
“I was born to be a football player,” he once said, after discussing his unusual name.
So it was fitting that interest came from Brazilian giants Sao Paulo, once home to the likes of 1994 World Cup winners Cafu and Leonardo, and more recently Julio Baptista and Luis Fabiano.
Wilkins was invited to a two-week trial at Sao Paulo in November 2017 thanks to Oceania Football Confederation developer Giovani Fernandez.
He was not signed by the Brazilian side but the experience was vital to his development – and the calibre of clubs taking him on trial highlight the incredible potential he has.
Wilkins is no stranger to playing abroad, having trained at Wellington Phoenix’s academy to hone his raw talent.
His skills were honed on the futsal pitch – even at a young age he showed enough promise to be signed up by New Caledonian football legend Zimako to attend his academy for 10 months before embarking on his career at Shepherds United.
He has also made the breakthrough internationally with six appearance for Vanuatu last year. However, he is still waiting for his first goal.
What can we expect from 2018?
There will not be as many international matches for Vanuatu given World Cup qualifying is over but a first international goal should not take long for the talented striker.
A move – either to an Oceania Champions League side or abroad – could be on the cards given the links to Sao Paulo.
However, more minutes on the pitch, more development and refining the raw talent he possesses should be top of the list for one of the hottest prospects in Oceania.