The Nerazzurri have given Gabriel Barbosa the perfect birthday present after announcing the signing of the Olympic champion on his 20th birthday.
Inter Milan paid Santos €29million and have tied the young talent down until 2021. Gabriel will make his move after the international break, where he is in the squad for Brazil’s crunch games against Ecuador and Colombia.
The club stated, “As we wait to see him in action at San Siro, everyone connected with Inter gives Gabigol a warm welcome to the club, wishing him a happy birthday and a fantastic career in a Nerazzurri shirt.”
Gabriel Barbosa – self-titled ‘Gabigol’, a nickname he’s tried hard to put behind him after the petulance of youth – is a serious talent. He’s small and compact but you wouldn’t want to get in a bar brawl with the guy. If I was 15 years younger I’d probably call him hench. He’s not afraid to show off his muscles either, wearing shirts and shorts at least one size too small. Shirts as tight as his ball control, he can dribble out of any situation and would always choose to do so. He has vision, creativity and an eye for goal. He’s not going to be playing too much on the shoulder of a defender, preferring to either play as a second striker or out on the right of a front three, able to cut in and shoot with his left foot. In terms of style of play, think of a Brazilian Roberto Baggio with an equally bad haircut but much, much tighter clothes. It is fitting that Gabriel should sign for one of Baggio’s old hunting grounds too.
Joining Santos at the age of eight, he fitted into Pele’s former club instantly. Working his way through their fabled youth academy, he signed a professional contract with a whopping €50million buy-out clause at the tender age of 16, making his league debut just a few months later as well. In his first full season in the team, he netted an amazing 21 goals, ten more than £19 million new signing Leandro Damiao.
He’s just starting to break into the international set-up. Trying to bolster a team that is desperate to find support for their superstar Neymar, Gabriel has worked his way up through the ranks from the U-15s. He was recently called up to the senior squad for the Copa America Centenario and managed a steady start to his international career with two goals in four games. At all levels, he’s been prolific and shone in the recent Olympics.
There are downsides to his game though. He’s strictly a left-footer, preferring to use his right to just stand on. Running down the right wing, if he can’t cut back onto his left, he tends to opt for an elaborate rabona with his left foot around the back of his right to whip a ball in. Being so one-footed on the opposite flank didn’t hold Robert Pires back at all, and he’s got the talent to make up for it just like the France and Arsenal legend.
He is, however, petulant and mouthy. He’s quick to get in people’s faces and quicker to throw himself on the floor. He’ll learn when and when not to use this to his advantage, and it’s easy to forget just how young he is when he seems to have been such a permanent fixture at Santos for so long.
He’s a quality signing and let’s hope Serie A get to see him reach his full potential. He’s a rough diamond, but a diamond all the same.