Today Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa will be officially unveiled as an Inter player. Below Brazilian football journalist Lucas Sposito introduces the attacker to SempreInter.com’s readers by looking closer at the player who was widely held as Neymar’s heir at Santos.
Gabigol. It all starts with the name. Gabi for Gabriel. Gol for goals, lots of them. All scored at the youth levels of Santos Futebol Clube, where he was given this nickname.
When he debuted for the first team, Gabigol humbly asked the TV commentators to be simply called Gabriel. But his abilities said the opposite, and therefore, he continued to have this name for the following years.
Gabigol made his first appearance for the first team on a special date for Santos fans: Neymar’s farewell. The game marked what would be the pass of the torch, as the kid was seen as the new jewel from the academy.
It happened when Gabigol was 16 and was still considered to be a striker. That was a discreet year for him, mostly used for his adaptation to professional football.
In 2014, at 17, he became a regular starter. The fact that Santos would prefer a stronger man leading the attack made Gabriel play out of position: either as a 10 or on the wings. Anyway, his ability to score goals never faded, even when playing far from the net. He scored 21 times in that season.
Gabriel turned 18 on that year, and received nothing less than Santos’ number 10 shirt, previously worn by Pelé. A great honour at the Brazilian club.
In the following year, he started being seen as a reality. He finally turned into a winger, and the tactics made him vary between the right and the left side. Playing on the left allows him to be more creative, but it can’t be compared to the right side, where he can cut inside in and finish. The boy ended the 2015 season with 21 goals again. Not to mention the incredible trivela assists that he developed during the year.
In 2016, his 12 goals for Santos gave him the chance to play for the Seleção Brasileira, both for the first team and for the Olympics’. Everyone knew that this would be a showcase to Europe, and it was no different. After coming back from Rio, he only played for Santos in his farewell and packed his bags for the old continent.
Gabigol’s qualities are not limited to finishing. He is skilled, has a good speed and is very smart. He can create a play with a couple of dribbles in midfield, and will certainly be in the box to finish it.
But he is a boy, and like every boy, he makes mistakes. Santos has a tradition of using many youngsters from the academy, and therefore, there is a big culture to support all of them. Gabigol has missed decisive goals and penalties, but he was always encouraged rather than mocked.
Now he will find another reality, as already happened during the Olympics. He was harshly criticized when wearing the Brazil shirt in Rio, and probably found a similar demand to what he’ll have in Milan.
Gabigol has a very strong feature that alternates between a quality and a defect: his personality. With it, he can call the game to himself, score decisive goals and dance in front of rival fans. But it can also result in silly bookings, pitch discussions and failure to admit mistakes.
The current market prices are scary, especially when you pay so much for a 19-year-old who arrives as a star. Inter need to take good care of his adaptation an make him develop with his head in the right place. He certainly chose the Nerazzurri because it would be the place where he’ll play more, and it will be great for his improvement. Fans must be patient, because if he reaches his full potential, he will be a real star in a few years.
Lucas Sposito is a journalist graduated from the Universidade Metodista de São Paulo and South American correspondent for Sport Witness.