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On The Verge Of Matching Neymar’s Goalscoring Record: Meet Gabigol The Latest Santos Youngster On The Pathway To Stardom

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Gabriel Barbosa Almeida - Gabigol
Gabriel Barbosa Almeida – Gabigol

The name Gabriel Barbosa Almeida has long rolled off the tongue of those discussing the next emerging stars of Brazilian football and it seems fate that his Brasileirão debut came during Neymar’s last game for Santos.

On May 26th Neymar played his farewell match against Flamengo and in the same fixture, Gabriel Barbosa Almedia, more commonly known as Gabigol, came on for his Brasileirão debut. It felt like a passing of the baton. The present star on the pitch for the last time alongside the future star, entering the pitch and being welcomed by Santos fans for one of the first times.

Gabigol wasn’t able to make his mark straight away, of course not, he was only 16 at the time, but later on during the 2013 campaign he did. On August 21st against Grêmio in the Copa do Brasil, Gabigol scored his first professional goal for Peixe – an 82nd minute winner against one of the giants of Brazilian football.

Days later he scored again and months later, as a 17-year-old, he started to set the 2014 Paulistão alight. Santos came up short in the two-legged final against Ituano but the latest Brazil protégé had left his mark. 18 matches returned seven goals. Although the Paulistão is a competition where you can come up against the most powerful teams in Brazil and other at the lower end of the scales, divisions away from the elite Brasileirão, one of Gabigol’s performances demonstrated his ability.

The teen scored and grabbed an assist as Santos defeated Corinthians 5-1. His performance wasn’t perfect but it showed that he could truly deliver against one of the biggest clubs in Brazilian football. As with any young footballer coming through the Santos ranks, a comparison is always made. Robinho was compared to Pelé, Neymar compared to Robinho and Pelé and now Gabigol is being compared to some of the aforementioned

The comparison between Neymar and Gabigol has grown since the latter first hit the headlines. The most talked about comparison is the goalscoring record of the pair during their opening season with Santos. The Barcelona forward scored 14 times in 48 appearances when aged 17 with Santos and during Gabigol’s first full season, aged 17 like Neymar was, he is on the road to demolish that record.

The attacker has scored 13 goals in 2014 in just 27 appearances. On Thursday night in the Brasileirão against Goiás, many anticipated he would equal Neymar’s goalscoring record. Unfortunately the youngster was forced off and therefore unable to find the net and match Neymar’s opening season achievements.

However, the goalscoring record of the youngster is remarkable, and perhaps unsurprisingly considering his name – he is called Gabigol due to his scoring prowess as a Santos youth. Although comparing Gabigol to Neymar is expected, the 17-year-old is actually very different to his idol. Neymar has always been a slight, skillful, silky footballer and while Gabigol does have similar attributes he appears to be a more all round package and goalscorer.

He is strong, built much bigger than the Barcelona forward and therefore can outmuscle defenders trying to bring him down. He is good in the air, can hold the ball up and has showed he is adept with both feet during his short career.

Like Neymar, he is a fantastic dribbler but if Gabigol was to be compared to somebody in the modern era it might be better to look at another Brazilian. His style is similar to that of Zenit Saint Petersburg and Brazil forward Hulk. Luis Suárez is another who Gabigol may be compared to down the line. The tenacity of the Uruguayan isn’t yet in Gabigol’s game but the foundations are there and the promise certainly is.

The latest on the injury sustained by 17-year-old isn’t yet clear. If it isn’t serious, which is the general consensus, then he may have three more games to beat Neymar’s record before the Brazil league has a break while the World Cup is underway.

Santos play Flamengo on Sunday, Bahia on Thursday night and then Criciúma on Sunday June 1st. If Gabigol is fit for those three fixtures you would back the youngster to go past Neymar’s opening season tally and further add to his blossoming reputation as the next big thing from Brazil.

Barcelona cleverly secured a “first option” deal on Gabigol when they were thrashing out Neymar’s transfer and as a result the next move for the 17-year-old could be to the Catalan club. When Blaugrana sealed “first option” on Gabigol they would have known about his potential but it is unlikely they would have predicted how quickly he would start to fulfill it.

While a move to Spain isn’t likely to occur this year, if Gabigol continues on his current trajectory to stardom it won’t surprise many if he and Neymar are together at Barcelona sooner rather than later. A call-up to the Seleção squad is another possibility for the Santos youngster. He may only be 17-years-old but he has started to show a level of maturity rarely seen in footballers his age and his ability has been showcased for everyone to see.

One bad injury could curtail everything but that is the case for all footballers. However, for the time being Gabigol continues to dazzle Santos fans and should he remain injury free it seems only a matter of time before Seleção supporters are chanting Gabigol’s name.