Neymar has just left Brazil and there is already another Santos teenager making the headlines in the country. Gabriel Barbosa Almeida, a 16-year-old nicknamed “Gabigol” thanks to his scoring prowess in Santos’ youth squads, struck his first professional goal last week, giving Santos a key win in a Brazilian Cup match, and igniting comparisons to Neymar.
Gabriel is about two months younger than Neymar was when he scored his first goal, in the 1-0 victory over Gremio in the first leg of the round-of-16 matchup.
And the teen also needed less time on the field to do it than the newly signed Barcelona star.
Gabriel wasn’t even supposed to play that night. He went to the stadium as a spectator, but got the last-minute call to get ready after another player was suddenly cut from the squad.
“When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Gabriel said. “I was playing video games at home all afternoon and just came to the stadium to watch the match. I went to the changing room to give my support to the players and then they told me that I had to get ready because Victor wasn’t going to be able to play. I didn’t even have my playing shoes with me.”
Neymar was 17 when he scored his first professional goal. The 21-year-old Brazil striker scored in his third match with Santos, but he needed a total of 149 minutes on the field to do it. Gabriel was playing in his sixth game as a professional, but needed only 124 minutes.
What Neymar and Gabriel have in common is the man who discovered them. Betinho, the scout who also found Robinho, was responsible for helping him get ready to transition into the professional squad.
Gabriel, physically strong and possessing a powerful left-foot shot, reportedly already has a $50 million buyout clause in his contract with Santos. He has the same agent as Robinho and Neymar, Wagner Ribeiro, who played a big part in Neymar’s transfer to Barcelona.