Many of Inter’s transfers over the last few years have had varying results. The more recent ones are still giving them benefits. But some have been blatant failures. They have failed to work out, forcing the club to lose trust in them. But Gabigol’s case is unique for the Nerazzurri.
It has swung from the club being right to the club being very wrong. Or vice versa. Initially, Gabigol was seen as a disappointment. A loan spell at Benfica probably confirmed that. But as soon as the Brazilian was sent on a temporary deal back home, things began to change.
Just when everyone thought a promising hero’s career was hitting a snag, things came alive for Gabriel Barbosa. As things stand, they are brighter than ever. And the world is sitting up to take notice of it.
Gabigol won Flamengo the Copa Libertadores recently. His stoppage-time brace saw them complete a late comeback to deny Marcelo Gallardo his third Libertadores title, handing Fla only their second South American crown. The first one came way back in 1981.
A day later, Gabigol also helped the club win the Brazilian league title. This month itself, Gabigol has had a direct hand in four goals in just two games. Two were goals-against Palmeiras on the 1st of December. He also helped Fla hammer Avai by a 6-1 margin, scoring a stunning goal himself.
Gabigol came to Flamengo this very season. And so far, he has contributed to 34 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions. That’s as good a number as probably anyone in Europe. For childhood club Santos last season, he had a hand in 19 goals in 42 games in all competitions. Those are very impressive numbers.
Inter did not sell him permanently anywhere, despite his links with Schalke as per Sportmediaset (via Calciomercato). It now seems like a wise decision, considering how Gabigol has his mojo back. Not even during his younger days had he come up with numbers as sensational as this. It shows how he is now maturing as a player. He could have done with that when he was at Inter.
But the biggest positive for them is that he’s still their player. They can look back on their decision to loan him out and feel happy about it. But in the end, it is about what they do with a player who is lighting up Brazil like no one else.
What is clear is that Gabigol is a better player than he ever was. Playing up front, he is taking 4.1 shots, completing 1.4 dribbles and also playing one key pass per game. Playing upfront has made him maximise his ability, considering he would play wide before his second spell at Santos began.
Gabigol recently was full of praise for Jorge Jesus for changing his career and changing him, as a player. He said (SempreInter via A Bola):
“Jesus is one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. I have worked with great names who have helped me a lot in shaping my career, as an athlete, as a person. But I think he reinvented me. Now I’m a different player, technically, physically and tactically. Jesus gave me a different view of everything. I’m so grateful to him, he really changed my life.”
Inter would look at that and feel that they have a possible option in there. Because Antonio Conte doesn’t have wingers in a 3-5-2 shape. He currently has Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku as the regular strikers upfront. Matteo Politano is another option and so is young Sebastiano Esposito.
But the Italian duo has two starts between them. Politano has made both of them, making seven appearances from the bench while Esposito has no starts to his name. Alexis Sanchez is out injured too, and that has been restricting Conte’s options, forcing him to start Lautaro and Lukaku in many of the last few games.
That makes for an interesting scenario for the club. As they look to challenge for the Scudetto for the first time in about 10 years, they can make do with extra goals. Lukaku and Martinez aren’t immune to injury or tiredness. As the season wears on and Inter progress into the cup games and the Champions League, a player like Gabigol will be needed.
They can certainly let him go to get some money. But as things stand, Gabigol is too good a player to sell. Especially for a Scudetto challenging side.