Will Gabigol be left in limbo?

Gabriel Barbosa

When Gabriel Barbosa (Gabigol) burst onto the scene as a 16 year old at Santos, many of Europe’s largest clubs began tracking the young Brazillian. Just two days prior to Gabigol’s league debut for Santos, the Club had announced they had received an offer from Barcelona for Neymar. With their golden boy departing for Barcelona, in Gabigol, Santos already had another waiting in the wings to fill his void. After the transfer saga of Neymar, where seemingly every giant in world football had battled to try and pry the player away from Santos at every opportunity since his debut in 2009, clubs that felt they were snubbed by Neymar (especially Real Madrid) were determined not to miss out on the next Brazilian sensation.

The forward eventually joined Inter in the Summer of 2016, which was regarded as somewhat of a coup for the capital Club. However, any initial excitement generated by this signing quickly turned to disappointment. Gabigol played just 183 minutes of first team football in his first season at Inter, scoring one goal. A season long loan deal was agreed with Benfica for the 2017/18 season although again, Gabigol failed to make an impact. After just 165 minutes of game time and a solitary goal to his name, Barbosa’s loan deal was ended in January. Yet another season-long loan deal followed, although this time a return to Santos beckoned as the player’s European football career looked like it could be over before it had even began.

However, the 2018 season turned out to be the best in Gabigol’s career so far, providing 19 goals in 45 appearances. Despite his success back in Santos, the player remained unwanted at Inter and yet again, he was loaned back to his native Brazil although this time to Flamengo. This time proved to be an even greater success for Barbosa as Flamengo became the first team to win the league and Copa Libertadores since Pele’s Santos in 1963. Gabigol was an integral part of the side, accumulating 34 goals and setting up a further 11 in 41 matches, leading the Club to the Club World Cup for the first time since lifting the Intercontinental Cup in 1981, also against Liverpool. The striker was also voted as South America’s player of the year, accumulating 45% of the votes in El Pais’ annual survey. These performances have once again drawn attention for the player from Europe, with a host of clubs again beginning to circle for his signature.

Flamengo are keen to keep the player in Brazil although West Ham and Chelsea are keeping a keen eye on Barbosa. Barcelona are also reportedly interested in Gabigol as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, but where is he most likely to end up?

If current reports are to be believed, Flamengo remain the most likely destination for Gabigol. With Inter required to move on some of their squad before making any significant transfers this window, Barbosa is one of the most likely to be on his way out of the Club. As Flamengo are known to be determined to keep the player in Rio de Janeiro, a swiftly completed transfer could be very beneficial to both sides.

Chelsea are known to be in the market for another attacker, with both Pedro and Willian’s contracts expiring at the end of the season whilst Lampard has also made a backup for Tammy Abraham a priority this window as Batshuayi and Giroud have failed to convince the young manager of their place in the squad. Gabigiol presents an interesting option for the Blues, as he is able to play up front or out wide and at 23 years of age, he remains an exciting young prospect of the mould that Chelsea have made their priority in recent transfer windows. Whilst Chelsea would also be able to offer an improved financial deal in comparison to Flamengo, it is unlikely the Brazilian would be able to force himself into the starting line-up. With the lack of game-time Barbosa has previously had in Europe, playing on a regular basis should be the priority for the player. Therefore, Flamengo appears to be a more likely destination.

Similarly to Chelsea, West Ham may also be able to offer an improved financial deal over Flamengo although the Hammers could also offer the player first-team football. Since arriving in the Summer, Sebastien Haller has struggled as a lone striker in West Ham’s regimented system, scoring just six goals in his 20 Premier League appearances so far. In his success at Frankfurt, Haller was supported by Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic. So far, only Michail Antonio has occasionally supported Haller upfront. Gabriel Barbosa could prove to be the perfect support striker to improve the Hammers goal return and also bring out the best in Sebastien Haller.

Finally, Barcelona present a more left-field option. With both Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi now in their early thirties, there is a focus from the Blaugrana to rejuvenate their front line. Ousmane Dembele was recruited as a direct replacement for Neymar although his time in Spain has been plagued by injuries and whilst Ansu Fati has shown incredible potential, at just 17 years old, it may be too soon for him to become a first-team regular. With Luis Suarez now likely to be out of action for the next four months, Quique Setien may look to bring in a long-term replacement for the Uruguayan. Gabigol’s current form has attracted interest from the Catalan giants and could prove to be the huge transfer originally speculated when the Brazilian burst onto the scene as a teenager. Rumours also indicate that a potential deal could also include Arturo Vidal, who Antonio Conte is a known admirer of and the player himself is known to be disappointed with his lack of playing time in Spain. Whilst this deal seems to make sense for both clubs, Gabigol has disappointed in Europe so far and so stepping up to a club the size of Barcelona appears unlikely. In addition, the Brazilian is unlikely to be a regular starter at the Nou Camp and so a move to Spain may not be the best move for the player’s career.

Our calculations currently value Gabriel Barbosa at just £4.03m due to has lack of international experience for Brazil and playing in the less competitive Brazilian Serie A. With a fee of around £20m rumoured to be Inter’s asking price for the player, this gap in valuation represents the gamble that any Club would be taking by bringing Gabigol back to Europe after his disappointing first spell. Of the club’s interested in the Brazilian forward, Flamengo appear to be his most likely destination although a move to West Ham also appears feasible.

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