Is Gabigol's career already at risk? Brazilian wonderkid has been a disaster in Europe

Comments
Hailed as a future superstar when he joined Inter from Santos last year, the 22-year-old is now struggling to get any game time on loan at Benfica

Just before Gabriel Barbosa joined Inter in August of last year, the striking sensation known as 'Gabigol' was given the ultimate endorsement by the finest centre-forward the Nerazzurri have ever known.

"I have been following the new young Brazilian talents for a while now," Ronaldo revealed, "Gabigol is certainly a great player and he is more than ready to play for a big club in Europe."

Inter 4/5 at Cagliari

Almost everyone concurred - Barcelona and Juventus also wanted to sign the Brazilian attacker - but amidst all of the hype and hysteria surrounding the Santos starlet, a compatriot was advocating caution.
 
“Much will depend on the effort and intelligence that he'll show when he comes to Europe, and also on the way he integrates," former Lyon ace Juninho told Tuttosport.

"Brazilians normally need a bit of warmth." 

Gabigol, though, has experienced little else but the cold, harsh reality of European football, first at Inter, and now at Benfica.
 
In the 15 months since he first set foot in Milan, where he was greeted like a returning messiah by Inter fans at Malpensa Airport, Gabigol has played just 332 minutes of football, scoring just twice - and not once in the Primeira Liga. That is a staggering statistic for a player who racked up 50 goals for Santos in less games than Neymar; a remarkable fall from grace.

Gabigol Santos

Gabigol European Stats PS

Gabigol Neymar Jesus Brazil

Indeed, on August 20 of last year, Gabigol was on top of the world, an Olympic champion at the age of 20. 

There, he proudly stood, alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, the new holy trinity of Brazilian football, three fresh-faced attacking talents who had restored a country's faith in itself after the soul-destroying failure to win a World Cup on home soil in 2014.

Further fame and fortune beckoned. However, while Neymar has since become the most expensive player ever after stepping out of Lionel Messi's shadow at Barcelona to become the leading light at Paris Saint-Germain, and Gabriel Jesus is now shining in Pep Guardiola's masterful Manchester City side, Gabigol has completely lost his way.

In hindsight, he picked the wrong European club to join. Inter appeared to offer a greater guarantee of game time than either Juve or Barca but, unbeknownst to him, he would be linking up with a coach who did not want him. 

Gabigol was the first major statement signing by the club's new owners, the Suning Group, and then coach Frank de Boer had had no say in the deal, as the Dutchman's brother, Ronald, later revealed.

De Boer's short reign was a disaster and he was promptly sacked but given that his successor, Stefano Pioli, was immediately asked if he was merely keeping the hotseat warm until a more high-profile figure arrived at the end of the season, the new boss was never going to offer a Serie A newcomer like Gabigol the chance to learn on the job by playing him regularly.

Gabigol Inter

Gabigol Inter Bologna

Gabigol Inter

The Europa League would have been the perfect place for Gabgiol to get to grips with European football but Inter - who were still an organisational mess at the time, following the change of ownership - botched that too. Having too many non-European Union players on their books, they decided against registering Gabigol. It represented a hammer blow to his hopes of acclimatisation.

There was a winning goal at Bologna in February but, even by then, there was talk of a transfer. 

Another change of coach could have helped but Gabigol failed to convinced Luciano Spalletti that he was worth retaining for the 2017-18 season, amidst rumours that the youngster was not in possession of the requisite application, professionalism and resolve to succeed at the very highest level.

Such talk has only intensified since his subsequent summer loan move to Benfica, where, on the rare occasions that he has played, he has looked disinterested and in poor shape. There was also an argument with team-mate Jardel after the 5-0 loss to Basel in the Champions League that cast further aspersions on his character.

Gabigol, though, strongly refutes the allegation that he is to blame for his current travails.

“I don’t think I failed at Inter," he argued in an interview with A Bola last month. "It’s very difficult for a Brazilian player who comes to Europe to score 20 or 30 goals in his first year.

“I arrived at Inter very young, I was only 20. It was God who wanted it that way. 

"I have always been Gabigol: at Inter, Santos, Benfica and Brazil. It’s just an issue of work. I have to work and wait for my opportunity.

“European football is very different and it varies from country to country. Italy is very different to Brazil and to Portugal. I need to get used to it."

Gabigol PS

In Gabigol's defence, there is an unfortunate similarity between his two European transfers in that, on both occasions, he was bought at the behest of the president and not the coach.

Rui Vitoria wanted to keep Konstantinos Mitroglou - not sign Gabigol. The Brazilian did score one sublime goal, against Olhanense in the Taca de Portugal, but he presently finds himself behind Jonas, Raul Jimenez, Haris Seferovic and even youngster Diogo Goncalves in the pecking order at the Estadio da Luz.

To put his predicament in perspective, he has yet to play more than 18 minutes of a single top-flight game since moving to Europe.

And that is unlikely to change, with Benfica set to cut short his planned season-long loan spell in January and send him back to Inter, where he is not wanted either.

As a result, he is desperate to return to Santos and the two parties have already agreed financial terms. All that remains is for the Brazilian outfit to strike a deal with the Nerazzurri, who paid €29.5 million for him last year.

Article continues below

Given just how little game time he has seen and how little backing he has seen from his various coaches, it is difficult to ascertain whether Gabigol is - or ever will be - strong enough to succeed in Europe.

All that we know for sure is that in spite of all of his obvious natural ability, he wasn't even close to ready for the move this time around. 

After 15 months in the European wilderness, Gabigol needs to go back to Brazil. He needs a bit of warmth.

Next article:
Schalke 0 Bayern Munich 2: James and Lewandowski deliver another win
Next article:
Getafe 0 Atletico Madrid 2: Lemar inspires routine win
Next article:
'We know we can do better' - Fellaini worried by Man Utd's gap to leaders
Next article:
Real Madrid vs Espanyol: TV channel, live stream, team news & preview
Next article:
Guardiola hopes for even more to come from Aguero
Close