Scout Report: Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa - The next big thing in Brazil
A certain 17-year-old kid from Brazil, more specifically Santos, has been doing the rounds in the footballing world over the past few
months. Here’s a Scout Report on the latest sensation from the nation that produces the most exciting talents in the world. His name is Gabriel Barbosa, commonly known by the nickname Gabigol.
Who is Gabigol?
First of all, let’s go back to 2004 where it all got started for Gabriel. There was a Futsal tournament where Gabriel was representing
São Paulo FC, and Brazilian legend Zito happened to be the coach of the Santos side. Zito witnessed the then 8-year-old kid doing wonders for his rivals throughout the tournament, including a 5 goal display against his own team. He was ever so quick to invite Gabriel for a trial at Santos, eventually signing up the kid to the club that has produced some extraordinary talents like Diego, Robinho, Ganso and Neymar over the years.
The kid was so special that Santos took his whole family from São Bernardo to live with him. Gabriel’s mother Lindalva recalls: “It was very difficult, but it worked. We came to Santos, and they gives us the entire structure. Our life has changed, thanks to Gabriel”
His father Valdemír Almeida, a dedicated Santos fan, had quit his job in Serra do Mar, a region is Southeastern Brazil, to minimize travelling and facilitate his son’s career.
This is what Emerson, a Santos coach and someone who also witnessed the Futsal tournament that unearthed the kid, had to say about a 14-year-old Gabriel: “For positioning, he could be compared to Paulo Henrique Ganso, but his finishing makes him a little closer to Robinho and Neymar”
Wagner Ribeiro, the agent of Gabriel [also manages the careers of Neymar, Robinho and Lucas Moura] was definitely betting on Gabriel to be a success when he says this, even when he was 14: “He has Ganso’s left-foot, Neymar’s technique, and the speed of Lucas. I had made the same comparison with Neymar, saying that he had the vision of Kaká, Robinho’s skill and the finishing ability of Ronaldo. Soon with Gabriel, this will also be seen”
Fellow Brasileirão outfit Flamengo had approached Wagner Ribeiro to see if they can steal the precious diamond from Santos, but the kid himself rejected the offer saying that he should be grateful towards the club which gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent.
Santos finally tied down Gabriel to a 3-year professional deal in September 2012, including a mighty release-clause of €50 million. The club holds 60% of his economic-rights, and an option to buy the remaining 40% from his family. Valdemír Almeida also said that his son signed the contract by refusing proposals from European clubs.
Now let me take you all to May 2013, when Santos faced Flamengo at the Mané Garrincha Stadium, considered to be Neymar’s farewell game before taking off to Spain and team-up with Lionel Messi at Barcelona. With around 20 minutes left on the clock and the score still 0-0, the then Santos manager Muricy Ramalho introduced 16-year-old Gabriel Barbosa to the field, to make his eagerly awaited début. The boy was deployed on the right side of the pitch and even came close to breaking the deadlock. I was fairly impressed with his display, as the kid showed some maturity and was making intelligent runs both on and off the ball.
Now taking you to Santos’ Copa do Brasil 1st-leg Round of 16 fixture against Grêmio last August. Gabriel wasn’t even included in the
match-day squad and came to the Vila Belmiro to support his teammates after playing PlayStation all afternoon. It was then he was instructed to get ready for the match by the coach because Victor Andrade had to be excluded from the squad in the last minute due to sickness. Might sound like a joke, but Gabriel didn’t even have his playing-boots with him. He came on as a late substitute for Neílton with 15 minutes left to play, but it was all what the 16-year-old needed to make an instant impact and become the hero of the night at the Vila Belmiro. Gabigol expertly lost his marker to get at the end of a low-cross driven in by Montillo from the left-hand side, and took a shot with his left-foot to put the ball past Grêmio goalkeeper Dida, yes you guessed it, the one-time FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil.
Brazilian media outlets were quick to compare his performance to none other than his idol, Neymar. Gabigol took fewer minutes than Neymar and was even younger than his idol when scoring his first goal for the Peixe.
As a reward for his heroic display in the cup game, Muricy Ramalho handed Gabriel his first league start against Vitória. Same was the outcome, as the kid needed just 9 minutes to put the ball into the back of the net.