Friday, 8 December 2017

Is Gabriel Jesus the new Ronaldo? I asked him – plus team-mates and opponents – that very question

Gabriel Jesus' progress since leaving Palmeiras for Manchester City a year ago has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Little wonder, then, that some have sought to draw comparisons with the last great Brazil No.9 to make that adjective his own. "He's the new Ronaldo," claimed Daniel Alves before Brazil's game against England last month. "They have similar qualities, a similar drive. He's going to be one of the greats."

That's lofty company to keep, but what does the player himself make of the comparison? And do team-mates and opponents see the similarities?

Find out in my latest for The Independent. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Arthur scouting report: Barcelona target is a pass master who can go far after 'magical year' at Grêmio

"Everything is easy for him," swooned Grêmio coach Renato Gaúcho after another passing masterclass. "Arthur is a hen who lays golden eggs."

It's not the most compelling of metaphors but you get the point: the kid is a bit good at football. Not that you'd have known it 12 months ago: the midfielder played just 36 senior minutes in 2016 and looked to be stagnating.

How things have changed since. Arthur has established himself as one of the best player in Brazil, winning fans in Europe – and at the Camp Nou especially – with his passing masterclasses from deep.

In my latest for Unibet, I look at his strengths and weaknesses, which apparently include PR.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

What's up with Gabigol? 'The new Neymar' has played just 332 minutes of football since leaving Santos

You probably first heard of him years ago, his name whispered on the wind (or perhaps just Football Manager forums) like a secret.

'Gabigol' they called him and it was not hard to see why: he scored over 600 times at youth level for Santos and made his first-team debut at 16.

By the time he joined Internazionale, three days before his 20th birthday, he had racked up 56 senior goals in 154 appearances. €29.5million was a hefty fee, but his numbers justified it.

But since that move, 15 months ago, Gabriel Barbosa has played just 332 minutes of football. I look at his plight in my latest Unibet column.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Malcom X-factor: Ligue 1's 'other' brilliant Brazilian is ready to take off after conquering Bordeaux

At times, it has been as if he is holding his own personal Ligue 1 Goal of the Season competition: witness his crackerjack equaliser against Lyon, the laser-guided curler against Toulouse or his surge against Nantes.

No wonder Bordeaux coach, Jocelyn Gourvennec views 20-year-old Brazilian forward Malcom as one of the best players in France – and no wonder Europe's giants are beginning to circle after an explosive start to the season.

But it's not just his attacking returns that make the youngster special. Named after Malcom X, he has the maturity and confidence beyond his years and has been planning for superstardom since for three years.

Read my piece about Ligue 1's other brilliant Brazilian on the Unibet blog.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Roberto Firmino interview: 'We have restored Brazil's reputation, playing joyful football. That is our essence'

“That defeat to Germany was a really big blow to all Brazilians. But we put it into our heads that what happened then doesn't matter anymore; it's what we do from now on that counts.

“The team spirit couldn't be better. We have been able to restore Brazil's reputation, playing joyful football that is respected around the world. That is our essence.

"Professor Tite is a brilliant coach, with a unique way of working, but he's also a marvellous person. He makes everyone feel at ease. It's because of his manner that the team spirit as good as it could possibly be. He transformed the atmosphere, imposed his style of play and everyone embraced his ideas."

Ahead of Brazil's game against England, I interviewed Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino. See what he had to say about Philippe Coutinho, his slow ascent to stardom and plenty more at The Independent.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Kerlon's retirement at 29 is a sad tale, but we'll always have the joyously goofy theatre of the seal dribble

“I had the privilege of doing something unique in the game.

"Guided by my greatest partner and friend, my father, we created a skill that had never been seen before. I did it in big moments, both for Brazil and for Cruzeiro, even in a big derby at a packed Mineirão.

“Even knowing that I would suffer a foul or a violent challenge, I still tried it, flicking the ball up in the air and travelling metres with the ball on my head, not letting it drop. That was my style of football: irreverent, with lots of joy.”

His own words sum it up rather nicely, but for more on the stunted career of Kerlon – now retired but destined to be remembered for his famous 'seal dribble' – read my latest Unibet blog.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Emperor's new clothes: Adriano's comeback plans are ambitious, but he does not deserve ridicule

The last seven years have been tough for Adriano. 

There were eight games and no goals at Roma, who sent him on his way after nine months. He returned to his homeland with Corinthians, replacing the retired Ronaldo, but managed just five appearances in his first eight months after rupturing his Achilles tendon. One year and 67 skipped training sessions later, his contract was torn up by the club.

Flamengo, with whom he had won the 2009 Brazilian title, offered him another lifeline, but that came to nothing. So too did brief stints with Atlético-PR (2014) and Miami United (2016), announced to some fanfare but ultimately unproductive. "It was an error," Furacão president Mario Celso Petraglia has said since. "He was a good kid, a spectacular guy with a good heart, but sadly he didn't have the strength. There's no way back for him."

Now, though, the Emperor is planning a fresh comeback. I take a look at his chances in my latest piece for Unibet.