Gabriel Barbosa, popularly known as Gabigol signed for Inter Milan in August for a fee in the region of €25 million amid much noise and fanfare.
The Brazilian striker, popularly dubbed “the new Neymar”, was expected to improve the dynamism and potency of the Nerazzurri attack.
Three months later, the Brazilian hitman is yet to take off. He probably wasn’t utilised by Frank de Boer because the decision to sign him was made without his consent. Now that the Dutch tactician has been sacked, the question is; Is Gabigol a good fit for Inter Milan?
The Brazilian wonderkid’s similarities to Neymar starts and stops at the fact that they both played for Santos. Their playing styles are remarkably different. Neymar in his time at Santos was famous for his trickery and was also an accomplished scorer.
Gabigol, on the other hand, is good at a lot of things but not a master at any, at least not yet. He is quick but not lightning quick; he’s got tricks up his sleeve, but he’s evidently not at Neymar’s level on that front.
Barbosa’s got a lot of bulk for a 20-year-old, but at 5’9 he doesn’t compare favourably to the bigger strikers in Europe.
Gabriel loves to hang on to the shoulder of defenders, looking to run in behind. This style served him well during his time in Brazil, but the predominant style of play in Italy is more resolute where there isn’t enough space to run in behind as defenders tend to operate right in front of their penalty box.
Inter Milan’s Number 96 also isn’t the most potent of finishers.
His numbers are impressive enough on paper, with 56 goals in 154 appearances for Santos. What the statistics don’t show is the number of different gilt-edged chances he squandered across various competitions for Santos.
Gabigol scored ten goals from 73 shots in 30 appearances in the Brazilian top-flight last term. One can compare this to his current teammate Mauro Icardi, who scored 16 goals from 57 shots in the much tougher Serie A, and the difference in their finishing attributes becomes more apparent.
The Serie A is the most technical of the major European leagues, and the defenders are reputed to be more tenacious. If Gabriel Jesus is to succeed like Mauro Icardi or Gonzalo Higuain, he will have to become a more lethal finisher.
Inter Milan makes use of a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mauro Icardi leading the line, while Candreva and Perisic play on either side of the Argentine striker.
Gabigol is well known for his work rate, but that work rate doesn’t translate to defensive responsibility. Although he has been deployed on the flanks for both Santos and Brazil, he might not be a good fit for that position at Inter, as he will be required to do a lot of tracking back.
Considering his skill set and the demands of the Serie A, the best position for the 20-year-old might be just behind Mauro Icardi, the position currently occupied by Ever Banega.
Playing a number 10 role will enable him to drift around the pitch, and join Icardi in the box when required. Also, because of the quality of his passing, and dribbling, he should be able to create chances for his teammates.
Rumours suggests that Internazionale is ready to listen to offers for Gabigol in the winter transfer window, but with a new manager in charge, the 20-year-old striker should at least get a chance to remind everyone why he was so highly rated in the first place.