A promising first campaign in Europe for Inter turned into a nightmare for Gabigol who now needs to find a new club to avoid another stagnating season
The Serie A season is closing for a beleaguered Inter Milan without Gabigol starting a single game, quite the disappointment after the Brazilian left Santos last August on a five-year deal and for $32 million.
Indeed, Gabriel Barbosa arrived in Italy on a high, having helped Brazil win Olympic gold for the first time in its history, and having been a key player for his former club side. However, Serie A life has not been as easy as the up-and-coming attacker would have wanted.
The problems began with Roberto Mancini resigning as manager, then Inter replacing the Italian with Frank de Boer, a novice to the Italian league. Clearly, Gabigol was not de Boer’s signing, and the Dutch tactician never seemed to trust the Brazilian nor give the forward any opportunities. During initial contract negotiations, the 20-year old Brazilian was promised an important role in the team, and he came with the expectation that he would be a key component of the Inter side.
De Boer’s era did not last long following a series of disappointing results, so Inter opted for Stefano Pioli instead. The pragmatic Italian was very vocal in his criticism towards Gabriel’s style of play, and had no remorse in describing the former Santos man as a show-off footballer.
It seemed that the former Santos star was fighting a battle that was lost before it had even started. As a matter of fact, his limited game-time did not improve, and he was an unused substitute for seven matches in a row during one particularly disheartening period.
The most intriguing aspect though is that Gabriel almost always did a decent job whenever he played, but was never rewarded for his efforts in the next game. No matter how bad Antonio Candreva under-performed, he would remain an automatic starter. Even Eder and Rodrigo Palacio were higher in the pecking order.
Pioli’s days in charge soon came to an end, as Stefano Vecchi was appointed as interim coach for the rest of the season. A third manager and nothing changed, not even a single league start. A total of 113 minutes of football in a whole season is just criminal. No matter how bad a player is, he still deserves at least one start to prove himself. And this never happened for Gabriel.
The forward had the right to feel disappointed and angry about leaving the club of his heart just to waste a whole season warming the bench, and consequently losing his spot with the national team. However, the way he reacted after not being subbed on against Lazio last week, storming off to the locker room before the match was over, was very controversial to say the least. Inter punished the Brazilian and forced him to train for three days away from the group, before dropping him for the final match day of the season.
For the way he has been mistreated at the club, Gabigol must be smart enough and leave for another team. With three different coaches, you’d think the club directors also take some of the blame for not discussing the youngster’s playing-time with any of them. To drive the point, everything has gone against Gabriel, so at his next port of call, the Brazilian must prioritize an attack-minded club in Europe’s top five leagues, that would give him as much playing time as possible.
Andreas Pereira thrived at Granada after leaving Manchester United on a season-long loan deal. If Gabigol is wise in choosing his next club, he has the potential to revive the very talented footballer that lies within, ready to explode, reminiscent of Philippe Coutinho who left Inter to Liverpool back in 2013.