After weeks of speculation, a deal has finally been struck for Italian Serie A club Inter to land Brazil striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa from Santos.
The 19-year-old put months of speculation to an end by signing for the Milanese giants alongside Portugal midfielder João Mário, and whilst the latter is certainly being warmly welcomed, it is Gabigol who is whetting the appetites of Inter’s supporters.
His arrival couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Nerazzurri fans desperate for something to get excited about. A wretched start to the new season has seen Inter part ways with coach Roberto Mancini, who was subsequently replaced by Frank de Boer, and tussle with captain Mauro Icardi over whether he would remain at the club.
Results on the pitch have been poor, with Inter falling to an opening day 2-0 defeat to Chievo, followed by a home draw against Palermo, in which they had to come from behind to rescue the point. Indeed, the pressure has already been cranked up in the black and blue half of the city. How badly the fans have needed Gabigol’s arrival.
Whilst there has been plenty of hype for a striker linked with Juventus, Barcelona, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, observers have certainly wondered what he might bring to Inter.
What Inter can expect to see
Gabigol’s name is the clearest indicator of what his game is all about. A powerful runner with a keen instinct in and around the penalty area, goals have become almost synonymous with him in recent months.
The São Bernardo do Campo native has an eye for goal, but his ability on the ball is what makes him stand out. Capable of playing across a front three, Gabigol appears more comfortable as the focal point of the attack but has shown a work ethic and willingness to put the needs of his team before his own, making him an instant crowd favourite at Santos.
Perhaps the finest example of this came in his final game for the club at the weekend. Having been on a 12-hour flight to Milan to put pen to paper on his Inter deal on Friday, the 19-year-old was back in Brazil and came on at half time as the Campeonato Paulista champions fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Figueirense on Sunday morning.
Showing little sign of jet-lag or exhaustion, the forward was a constant danger and had a late equaliser ruled out. But it was after the final whistle that the bond between player and fans was thrust into the limelight, with Gabigol remaining on the pitch to wave and bid farewell to his loving audience. It would be little surprise if Inter supporters one day hold him in similar regard.
Gabigol and Icardi: deadly duo in the making
Inter can expect goals, direct and pacy runs into the penalty area, and the vision to bring others into the game. Although he may flourish best as a fox in the box type striker, Gabigol may well evoke memories of two great Brazilians to don the Nerazzurri colours; Ronaldo and Adriano.
Mixing the unstoppable force of the former with the power and precision of the latter, the teenage sensation is set to take Serie A by storm, provided he is granted the patience required upon moving from a club he has called home since the age of 10.
Whilst he will need to work in the physical side of his game, at just 179 cm he is not the most domineering figure, the Brazil international has enough about him to suggest he can make it in Italy.
Whether Gabigol will be given the opportunity to lead the line at the San Siro is a different matter. Having worked so hard to convince Icardi to remain at the club over the summer, how will the South American duo fit into the same team together?
Gabigol works best when he is flanked by creative inside forwards, as witnessed at the Olympic Games as he lead the line alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus to guide Brazil to a first ever gold medal. Inter are unable to provide such options, whilst Icardi is the undisputed focal point of the attack.
As seen with Eder, who failed miserably at Inter since January after a prolific spell at Sampdoria, Icardi is not the easiest striker to play alongside. Whilst he himself guarantees goals, he certainly doesn’t bring the best out of those around him.
However, Gabigol has enough about his game to be able to make his mark on Serie A. Indeed, he could be the man to provide the perfect foil for Icardi, and Inter will be hoping they can develop into a devastating duo.
The Olympic champion leaves Santos with a tally of 56 goals in 153 appearances, but with the maturity that ought to come with a move to Europe, his scoring record is sure to improve.
Perhaps fittingly, a then 16-year-old Gabigol made his Santos debut as a substitute during Neymar’s final game for the club, ahead of his move to Barcelona. How many would bet against him taking European football by storm the way his compatriot has done over the past three years?