Leandro Damiao: Is he suited to Liverpool?
Another week in the transfer window, and another Brazilian linked with Liverpool FC. This time it’s the 24-year-old Internacional centre forward Leandro Damião, whose name graces the transfer gossip pages. He’s another player who’ll fit the bill in terms of big spend, but is he the right player for LFC?
Damião began his career as a midfielder, playing in youth sides in Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, but his progress was slow and he almost gave up on football at the age of 18. He comments in this interview on the FIFA website, that he was very close to looking for work outside of football in order to help his family:
“When I went to [Atlético] Ibirama a lot of people said I wasn’t good enough. I had an awful lot of problems to face and I nearly gave up football to go and help my family.”
A change of position brought a change in fortune. The club gave him a second chance in his new role as a center forward, and the goals started flowing. His performances in the Santa Catarina state championships attracted interest from clubs in the upper echelons in Brazilian football, and he eventually signed for Porto Alegre based club Internacional in 2009.
His rise continued at Inter, where he was promoted from the U20s to the first team reserves almost immediately, and it wasn’t long before he was making his debut for the senior squad, first in the Gaúcho state championships, then the Brazilian top flight, and then in the big one – the Copa Libertadores.
His appearance in the 2010 Copa Libertadores was short and sweet. He played just over 18 minutes in the entire competition, but his contribution was great, as he scored a goal almost as soon as he entered the field of play in the second leg of the final. Internacional won the cup and Damião had himself a Copa Libertadores medal.
In 2011, he formed a formidable partnership with another promising young Brazilian named Oscar. The attacking midfielder had recently joined from Sao Paulo, and between them they played some part in almost all of Internacional’s goals that season, such was their chemistry in attack.
Oscar now plays his football in the English Premier League for Chelsea, and is a vital part of the current Brazil set-up, but Damião’s progress has stalled somewhat.
Leandro was set to become the focal point of Brazil’s attack under previous manager Mano Menezes, as they looked to build a future proof squad, along with a future proof playing style which was more reliant on team play than individual stars.
Unfortunately, this plan came to an end when Mano Menezes was sacked due to some poor results, and a failure to win the much coveted Olympic gold at the London 2012 games.
Much of the good work done by Menezes has been continued, and some of his young squad has remained intact under Luiz Felipe Scolari but, due in part to some injuries at unfortunate times, Damião has been replaced by Fred as the Selecao’s focal point.
A move to Europe might just be what Damião needs. Many of his countrymen have moved to Europe’s higher profile leagues in order to stay in the public eye, as they look to remain in contention for the national team. A similar move could see Damião reclaim his place in the squad, if not the first XI, for the all important 2014 World Cup in Brazil.