by Tom Lees - 24th December 2015
As the January transfer window draws closer, speculation is growing at a rapid rate over the future of young Gabriel Barbosa, more commonly known as Gabigol. The biggest clubs in Europe are consistently linked with the young forward, Manchester United and Real Madrid beingthe latest, PSG, Chelsea, AC Milan and Manchester City have also been mentioned, as well as Barcelona having a first refusal clause in his Santos contract (a clause inserted as part of the Neymar transfer). Young Gabriel is possibly the most exciting and in demand prospect in World football, with his performances now living up to the early hype.
Born in São Paulo, Gabriel became a member of the Santos youth academy aged 8, his potential was spotted immediately and shortly after his 16th birthday, in 2012, he signed his first professional contract with the club. Santos inserted an enormous €50 million buyout clause in that contract to underline just how highly that rated his talents. As a 16-year-old, Gabriel would make his league debut in a goalless draw against Flamengo, and would score his first professional goal on 22nd August 2013, still aged 16, in the Copa do Brasil win over Gremio. The Copa do Brasil would be a competition the young forward would go on to relish, with 15 goals scored in 23 Copa appearances to date, becoming the top scorer in the 2015 edition.
His league form at Santos has been going from strength to strength, it is worth remembering that Gabriel is still only 19 and for the last three years the expectations have been extremely high. He has shouldered that burden well, creating his own image and moving away from the ‘next Neymar’ moniker, learning from those around him, in particular Robinho, and become a more rounded frontman. Also becoming a young father has clearly given Gabriel a greater responsibility and maturity, which is not only helping his game but will help his relationship with management on a personnel level, something that had come into question upon occasion in the past. In the 2015 edition of the Brasileirão, he was awarded the ‘Bola de Prata’, or ‘best newcomer’ award, another indication of the progress he had made.
A classy two-footed forward, although primarily using his left, Gabriel is able to play either as a striker or out wide, with the majority of appearances made on the wing. He has a quick burst of pace, array of skills and a real eye for goal, showing fantastic composure in a number of his goals to slot the ball past goalkeepers into the corner. As his career progresses it’ll be interesting to see what position Gabriel makes his own, with Brazil calling out for a top striker it seems there is a vacancy there ready made for him. However, his next transfer will play a key role in his development and decide his positional future for him.
As we move closer to 2016, it looks set to be a very busy year for the youngster, the Olympic Football tournament in Rio is approaching, and Gabriel is a key player in the Brazil side, a side that will be desperate to win the gold in front of their home fans. Also a call up to the senior Brazilian National team is getting closer and closer, and in 2016 it looks as though Gabriel could achieve his dream of representing the Seleção. With all this is the constant speculation regarding a big money move to Europe, having turned down a move to Fenerbahçe last summer so as to try and help Santos achieve domestic success, a transfer in the January window may be inevitable. Excitement is already building around the player, with the ‘will he stay, will he go, where will he go’ questions being asked, time will tell on that front.
Gabriel is a player set for the very top, a true wonder kid, he’s the name on everybody’s lips and in the not too distant future, could be the name creating football headlines across the globe. 2015 was the year the hype started to become reality, the reality is that Gabriel is a superstar in waiting, a truly special talent.