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Who is Arthur Cabral? The Barcelona transfer target emulating Salah with Basel heroics

13:00 GMT 04/12/2021
Arthur Cabral Basel
The 23-year-old Brazilian is in the form of his life, helping himself to an incredible 25 goals in 26 games so far in 2021-22

Switzerland has never been famed as a football powerhouse. It does, though, hold intimate links with the history of Barcelona – and might just provide the Blaugrana with its next star striker.

It was former Basel striker Hans (or Joan) Gamper, after all, who in 1899 took the first steps towards founding FC Barcelona in his adopted home of Catalunya. More than a century later the two sides continue to share their distinctive red and blue colours, while Gamper remains one of the most important figures in Barca's long, illustrious history.

Now another Basel favourite may be in line to make the same move, as Arthur Cabral seeks to capitalise on his incredible form in the Alpine nation to jump into football's elite.

Arthur, 23, is enjoying a spectacular season in front of goal in his third year in European football.

He has already smashed 25 goals in 26 games in all competitions - including 14 in as many outings in the Swiss Super League - while also providing eight further assists as Basel challenge for the domestic title and look to make an impression on the UEFA Conference League.

That sparkling record earned him his first call-up to Tite's Brazil set-up in October, although he did not see any time on the field.

Direct, proficient both with and without the ball at his feet and with a seemingly innate scoring instinct, the Brazilian is earning an ever-growing cabal of admirers, even with the drawback of playing in one of Europe's lesser-followed leagues.

One admirer is Barca. GOAL revealed in November that the Catalans are weighing up an approach worth €15 million for Cabral, with compatriot and ex-Barca hero Deco charged with seeing negotiations through.

With Martin Braithwaite out injured and Sergio Aguero's future still uncertain after being diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, Xavi desperately needs extra fire-power at centre-forward and the club's goal is to complete the transfer as early as next month.

Not that they are the only ones interested. West Ham are also in the chase for the ex-Ceara and Palmeiras striker, while Newcastle United have identified Cabral as the possible solution to their goalscoring woes that could dig them out of relegation trouble this season.

It marks a remarkable ascendency for a player who just four years ago was taking his first steps in the professional game in Brazil's second tier.

Cabral came up through the youth ranks at Ceara in the north-east of Brazil, finally breaking through to the first team in 2017 as the club ended a run of five years in Serie B with promotion back to the top flight.

The following season proved another landmark for the young prospect. Arthur netted 11 goals in the state championship to ensure Ceara would retain their title, while his seven Serie A strikes proved key in guaranteeing safety from relegation and also persuaded Sao Paulo giants Palmeiras to add him to their ranks at the start of 2019.

He enjoyed scant opportunities to shine with the Verdao, but Basel had already seen something special. With just one full season under his belt, Arthur swapped Sao Paulo for Switzerland on an initial loan deal that proved a roaring success, and there now seems no limit to his potential.

“I think I have grown a lot in Europe, mostly tactically,” the forward told reporters in October while on international duty. “I am very young, I arrived in Europe at the age of 21, so I think I am still growing.

“As I always say, I am always looking to evolve. If I am better now than I was before, next year I want to be better than I am today.

“I think that in Europe I've been able to learn a lot. They put great value on the tactical and technical part, even more so in Switzerland. That has helped me a lot in order to taste the pleasure of wearing this national team shirt.”

Cabral would not be the first budding star to use Basel as a stepping stone. Mohamed Salah also cut his teeth in the Swiss club, winning back-to-back league titles in his two seasons there before that abortive move to Chelsea and later success at Fiorentina, Roma and Liverpool.

If anything the Brazilian has made an even bigger impression on the Super League, particularly this current season. If he can continue his stellar trajectory there is no reason to think he cannot make a big impact at Barca or indeed any top club in the years to come.