Neymar, Ganso and Lucas in one: meet Gabigol

With a cultured left foot and great finishing ability, the Santos youngster wore the number 10 shirt for Brazil in the Under-15 World Cup, and showed that after Pele, Robinho and Neymar, lightning can indeed strike four times in Belmiro.   Scorer of six goals, the winger was the highlight of the campaign that led […]

With a cultured left foot and great finishing ability, the Santos youngster wore the number 10 shirt for Brazil in the Under-15 World Cup, and showed that after Pele, Robinho and Neymar, lightning can indeed strike four times in Belmiro.


Scorer of six goals, the winger was the highlight of the campaign that led Santos to the Brazilian youth title. On the indoor pitches of Parana, the repertoire he presented was great. Shots from outside the area, and assists for his teammates caught the eye as well as his performances against Flamengo in the first phase, and PSTC in the quarter-finals.


At the age of eight, ‘Gabigol’ was signed by Santos after scoring five goals against them for Sao Paulo. He is treated as a true gem in Santos. No wonder that it was Peixe who took his whole family from Sao Bernardo to live with the boy, and paid him training contract and image rights, about $ 18,000 per month (in the management agreement made Marcelo Teixeira), a rare amount for a player of his age.


Despite his youth, however, the player already has shown that investment in youth can give good results in the future. In his six years with the club, he has scored 413 goals between futsal and the soccer field, and has helped Santos to win national youth titles.


“We work so that he can become a great player, but the main thing he has is talent. We are trying to show him the importance of learning issues in the game, such as the tactical parts, and the technical. The rest he already has. He knows how to score a few. The big advantage is to not be afraid of making mistakes. He’s a boy who knows how to play easy, with simple moves, but he can also leave room for individuality” said Emerson, current coach of Gabriel and “victim” in the game of five goals in 2005.


Despite being more serene than Wagner Ribeiro, the coach of the U-15 Santos side did not cease to project the player that Gabriel can become in the future. And as the manager, he expressed optimism in the emergence of a phenomenon.


“For positioning, he could be compared to Ganso. But his finishing makes him a little closer to Neymar and Robinho. Ganso is a playmaker, while Gabriel is more of a goalscorer. Ganso comes to the attack a little and creates more. It’s a mixture. Of course it is hard to say today that Gabriel may have both characteristics, but Ganso has the positioning and quality that sets him apart from Neymar and Robinho,” said Emerson.”


Maturity and concentration can reduce the pressure


The pressure placed on his shoulders, it seems, does not at all worry the young number 10. closely followed Brazil during the Under-15 World Cup, during which Gabigol showed maturity beyond his years. As a member of a group whose main concern was relaxation on the field, he leaves the impression knowing exactly what is expected of him and his football and at times clashes with the rest of the team.


Even while participating in games or performing dances in celebration of goals, it is easy to see him isolated. It is the same on the bus or in the locker room, where he is often reflecting on the game that lies ahead. Another thing to note is the lack of fashion accessories or a Neymar-style mohawk. With his simple style, the winger said he preferred to stand out for what he did on the field.


“I like to show my style on the pitch,” he said. “I like to take to the field and play ball. Off the field, I always have fun with my friends, and go out. On the field, it’s serious, but I never lose the joy of a child.”


Having come through the youth ranks and Santos, the comparisons to Neymar and Robinho are natural. Following in the footsteps of idols is something young Gabriel dreams of.


“I know the responsibility I have,” he added. “It is important to sometimes be quiet, and try to stay more focused. The expectation comes early, but that is because I get to play ball well and help the team. I think this is a normal thing. When I walk into the field, I try to forget it and play with joy. I just think about playing ball.”


While still far from professional, Gabriel has become accustomed to dealing with the everyday life of a player since joining the club. There are few records on the internet of meetings between him and another Neymar prodigy, Jean Carlos Chera, who was recently fired after a club controversy.


“Santos do an excellent job. The psychologist is always available to help us and give the coaches any information they need to know. Beyond the support of parents, it is essential. My mom and dad are always with me, and do everything for me,” revealed Gabigol, while handing out autographs at the interior of Parana.


Supervisor of the youth categories of the club, Bebeto Stival, is one that co-operates in this process. If on a daily basis, Gabriel has the same treatment as the rest of his companions, a conversation in the ear can become crucial to his future development.


We need to teach, sit down and talk, even direct him,” said Stival. “He is a very talented boy who has everything to be a great player. If all goes as it is going, I have no doubt he will reach his goal. But the conversation is important to teach him not to begin to flaunt that reputation. You need to keep your feet on the ground. He is a polite, calm boy who knows how to listen. This is important. He was recently dropped from an adult squad and was crestfallen. I sat down and said that it is something that happens, and he understood.”


His parents are with him every step of the way


The family support is another issue pointed out by Santos as positive for Gabriel. Unlike most young people, the number 10 has the company of his father, mother and sister wherever he plays. His father, Valdemir Almeida, has been inspired by the career of Neymar, and hopes his son can follow a similar path.


“We met Neymar when he was 13, and when Gabriel was nine,” he said. “I was really inspired by Neymar’s journey. I analysed how his father had helped him, and wanted to do the same for Gabriel.”


At home, there are no restrictions. The democratic conduct, according Valdemir, has worked, and makes sure that Gabigol respects the agreements and ignores the extravagances common among friends of the same age.


Almeida explained: “Of course he sees players with mohawks and other accessories, but he has always said he wants to have his own style. He says: “I want to be me.” He is a very focused kid. We do not ban anything. He has no problem doing things despite his age. We set the time for his curfew and he always comes back.”


The father is still responsible for giving Gabriel a dose of reality. While in the street Gabriel is seen as the new Neymar, at home the message, repeated to exhaustion, is very down to earth. “He has not reached his aim yet,” says Almeida. “He is still learning with Santos. There is a gem inside him, and maybe on day he will realise his potential.”


Beside Valdemir, Lindalva Barbosa, Gabriel’s mother, has a special job: to record every game of her son. It has to be the full 90 minutes. For her, the closeness complements the work of Santos for the youngster to feel free and be concerned only with “fun” on the field.


“I would always be with him,” she said. I” love football and I follow him to help him to be confident and to know that I am here for whatever he needs. The pressure will always exist. Parents charge a little. My husband was a player, I played soccer, but Santos have a big structure with psychologists, and specific coaches. And they will work with the child’s head. The club also encourages studying. This ends up making it more natural and easy.”


Promise of professionalism with Santos


Agent Wagner Ribeiro is without a doubt betting on the success of Gabriel, and argues against those who doubt his words recalling a recent and accurate prediction.


“He has the left foot of Ganso, the technique of Neymar and the speed of Lucas. I made the same comparison with Neymar, saying that he had the vision of Kaka, the skill of Robinho and the finishing ability of Ronaldo. Soon, with Gabriel this will also be seen,” said Ribeiro, who represents Neymar and Robinho among others.


So much talent, in turn, could not be immune from harassment from other clubs. Visited by Europeans, Wagner Ribeiro received a proposal from a national rival, Flamengo. A trade before turning professional, however, was discarded by Gabriel and his family. The reason? The confidence and gratitude to Santos.


“I was approached by Flamengo,” claimed Ribeiro. “He said he would not do that because we have to be grateful to Santos, who gives him a chance to play and have said that he will appear for the first team one day. This should be reciprocated in some way. With goals, security and economic return. It’s the same with Neymar. The character of the parents make it safe.”


The high values ​​of the contract, not confirmed or denied by the manager, are not able to hold Gabriel to Santos. But there is an agreement that the youngster will turn professional with the club and sign his first contract as soon as he turns 16.


Such caution is justified in the words of one who knows Peixe and football. Two-time World champion with Brazil and former Santos player Zito, who also acts as ‘Chief Manager’ at the club, summed up the future of Gabriel:


“He is bound to be a good player.”

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