Chelsea set to get their own Neymar; Here is why Chelsea appears to be the career destiny for Angelo Gabriel
Angelo Gabriel. If he fulfils his promise. If he meets his potential. And if he does it all in a Blue shirt. Then there’ll be nothing else to say but this Chelsea move was destiny…
Across South America, they dub kids like Gabriel as pre-destined. An outstanding talent spotted in the local academy. One playing above his age groups. The scouts. The journalists. They tip the kid for greatness, declaring him pre-destined. And Gabriel is no exception.
But this Chelsea move is something else. And as we say, if it works out, you’d have to say it was destiny that brought the two together.
By rights, Gabriel shouldn’t be a Chelsea player today. Before this €15m deal, the 18 year-old had numerous opportunities to leave Santos. Last August it was Nottingham Forest that came in for him. Before Christmas, after an extended scouting run by Steve Nickson, Newcastle United made then attempt. Both Premier League efforts were resisted by Santos. But then things changed in March when Flamengo had an offer accepted: €12m for 50 per cent of the teen’s registration. It was an excellent proposal – particularly considering what Chelsea have just paid for the player. But Gabriel turned it down. The youngster insisting at the time he would keep his promise to Santos teammates that he would not be leaving them.
And beyond the offers from England and Fla, Gabriel also was playing with an option in his contract which granted Barcelona first refusal on his sale. It was a two-year old clause that had remained alive until the Catalans stepped aside to allow Chelsea to complete their negotiations. Santos granting Barca the option – and avoiding compensation – after upsetting the Catalans with the past sale of Gabigol to Inter Milan.
But after all that, it was Chelsea which managed to land the teen. And as we say, for much less than what Fla had proposed just months previous. A bargain? Perhaps. Though those inside the Brazilian game are convinced Gabriel is indeed pre-destined. In terms of recent Chelsea history, he’s more like a Ramires than a Kenedy…
Certainly Gabriel’s former academy coach at Santos, Betinho, believes so. The long time scout and youth trainer not hesitating when comparing Gabriel with another Santos alumni.
“He has the style of Edu, a former winger, and Neymar for his quick dribbles and change of direction,” said Betinho. “He’s a very interesting player who will evolve and shine.”
That was Betinho two years ago when discussing Gabriel’s senior debut for Santos. At 15 years, 10 months and 4 days, Gabriel became the second youngest to play for the club. Only Coutinho, the 1962 World Cup winner, was younger. But with his debut, he did surpass another Santos and Brazilian – Pele.
Betinho again: “We saw him at eight years of age and a year later we brought him in for trials with the Santos academy. He was quickly approved. He showed the profile of a beach player: a fast, skillful, irreverent player, with a lot of technical quality and offensiveness.”
Almost a decade on and that same energy and dynamism remains – but has also been honed and focused into the talent that Chelsea will now count on.
Julio Baptista, the former Arsenal and Real Madrid attacker, has watched the progress of Gabriel from afar. Now B team coach at Ronaldo Nazario’s Real Valladolid, there’s little surprise the teen was also on their radar.
“Angelo Gabriel is an incredible player, for someone so young,” he says.
“He has a great left foot, but he can play across the front-three and also behind the 9. He’s a strong runner, he has incredible skills, especially dribbling, and I think it will work well at Chelsea because he’s so talented.”
However, Baptista – who’s reputation is growing as Valladolid B coach – does warn the teen is far from the finished product.
“When players move from Brazil to Europe, they need time to complete their game but he’s an incredible talent.”
Completing Gabriel’s game is unlikely to happen at Stamford Bridge – at least in the short-term. Fla have made their pitch, but the teen appears the ideal prospect to become the first serious loanee for Chelsea’s French partners Strasbourg.
Marc Keller, Strasbourg’s president, has stated the club won’t be a dumping ground for Chelsea’s cast-offs. But Gabriel can hardly be placed in that category. This column has questioned Chelsea’s move into the multi-club network field. However, moving Gabriel from Santos to a preseason in London to a full campaign in Ligue 1 does make sense. There’s a purpose to it. A strategy. And if this is BlueCo’s (Chelsea’s umbrella company) approach, then you can foresee the benefits.
So there may yet be another detour before Gabriel finally reaches his destination. But given all the twists and turns of the past year, you do fancy it is destiny that Angelo Gabriel will make his career as a Chelsea player.