The search for young, up and coming talent never seems to end and many of the world’s elite have identified Santos forward Gabriel Barbosa as the next big thing. The Brazilian club are a breeding ground for world-class Brazilian talent that has seen the likes of Pele, Robinho and Neymar play in the black and white shirt.
Many expect Gabriel Barbosa to follow in the footsteps of the Barcelona superstar and move to Europe; with Arsenal, Chelsea and Juventus all interested in the youngster’s signature. Gabriel is expected to represent Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Games and will hope to bag a gold medal on home soil.
But who is the 19-year-old attracting interest from all corners of the globe?
NAME: Gabriel Barbosa
KNOWN AS: Gabigol
HE’S A BIT LIKE: Luis Suarez
Who is he?
Gabriel was born in Sao Paulo and joined Santos’s youth system aged eight. His first professional contract with the club contained a minimum buyout clause of €50m. The forward made his professional debut aged just 16 in May 2013 and scored his first goal for the club two months later against Gremio.
He soon progressed through into the first-team after a fine season in the Brazilian Serie A where he outscored £9m signing Leandro Damiao. After ending the season with 21 goals, Gabriel found himself limited to substitute appearances for the majority of 2015 but still managed to find the net 21 times.
Following the departure of Robinho, Gabriel established himself as first-choice striker and has flourished with first-team football which earned him a call-up to the senior Brazil squad in March. He penned a new contract with Santos in July 2016.
Style of Play
Gabriel is extremely versatile and can operate as the main striker or on the wing similar to Neymar. Despite his slender build and small frame, the striker can hold his own against some of the league’s fiercest defenders.
Like Luis Suarez, the 19-year-old shows drive and determination to win the ball back when not in possession and shows tremendous work-rate for a striker. It is the youngster’s technical ability which sets him apart from the rest as the Brazilian has a wonderful range of passing and excellent dribbling skills.
Gabriel is also a lethal finisher. His goal record in Brazil speaks for itself meaning he is truly a complete forward; capable of playing anywhere across the frontline.
“Santos have nothing to lose. Gabriel has great potential, and, if not now, in the future will give a great economic return to the club. It is a matter of time,” – Wagner Ribeiro (Agent)
“Many have said that he has no strength and resistance to make it as a professional, but I think he will be the idol of his generation. He is a healthy, dedicated and focused boy, born with the gift of goals,” – Brazilian football scout, Betinho
“Every kid dreams of playing for Barcelona one day. It’s no different with me. I’d love to go there after I finish my career with Santos, but I’m focused on winning with my team for now,” – Gabriel Barbosa on Barcelona interest
“Some of my friends cheer for Roma so I followed Francesco Totti. I like his story and how he never left Roma despite the offers that came his way. He is a great player and I want to be like him. It’s tough to see a player so attached to a fanbase here in Brazil.” – Gabriel Barbosa on footballing idols
A move to Europe seems imminent for the hot prospect and clubs are queuing up to whisk him away from Brazil. Arsenal have been named as a possible destination for the youngster after Arsene Wenger admitted he is looking for another striker. The Gunners were knocked back in their attempts to lure Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon and could turn to ‘Gabigol’ as an alternative. The Brazilian would be able to cover a number of position at the Emirates and is still only 19-years-old. However, some fans may feel the club need a proven Premier League goal-scorer rather than taking an expensive risk on Gabriel.
Chelsea are another Premier League club who have expressed an interest in the forward. Antonio Conte has refused to answer questions regarding the future of Diego Costa who has been linked with a return to Atletico Madrid. Despite spending £30m to bring Michy Batshuayi to the club, the Blues are reportedly willing to offer around £15m for the Brazilian’s services.
Despite interest from England, a move to Italy or Spain seems more likely. Spanish champions, Barcelona, are reportedly keen to bolster their squad by adding Gabriel to their attack. The Brazilian international expressed his desire to one day represent the club and would love to reunite with international team-mate Neymar.
However, Juventus are the favourites to sign the forward despite spending £75m on former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain. Reports in Italy suggest the clubs have agreed on a fee for the starlet and it is a matter of time before the deal is completed. Gabriel’s agent insists no deal has been agreed with any club but the signs are that Italy could be his client’s next destination.
Whatever club manages to win the race for his signature will have a very exciting player on their books. Gabriel is one of the brightest talents to come from Brazil in recent years and is tipped to reach the heights of the many Santos greats that have gone before him. A forward with bags of potential is certainly one to keep a close eye on in the coming years.