For any big clubs in Europe, recruiting talents from Brazil always remain the first priority. Since the Brazilian players started to feature in top European Leagues on a regular basis in the 80s, no clubs leave any stone unturned to sign an emerging Brazilian teenager. For more than four decades this tradition continues and the Spanish and Italian Clubs have been the frontrunners in this business.
Gustavo Maia, welcome to Barça. pic.twitter.com/R4ICmYvHjU
— total Barça (@totalBarca) June 3, 2020
Right now, Barcelona and Real Madrid have beaten others – they don’t seem to wait for a player’s senior debut and sign him as early as possible.
The latest example is Sap Paulo’s, Gustavo Maia.
The 19-year-old Brazilian is yet to make his senior debut for Sao Paulo Football Club but that has not stopped Barcelona from securing the first-option clause on the teenager.
The early days
Gustavo is born in Brazil’s Federal District, Santa Maria, which is also the home town of Westham United’s Brazilian player Felipe Anderson. Like his predecessors, Gustavo started playing football in the streets and adopted the abilities of dribbling, which have been dazzling the world since the days of Pele and Garrincha.
His footballing education began at Milan-DF, a small club in his state when he was just 11. Then he would join the Brasilia Futebol Academia, where many legends have polished their talents before joining bigger clubs.
The Academy’s most recent success story was that of Reinier Jesus, whose talent and skill caught the eyes of Flamengo scouts years ahead of his €35m (£30m/$39m) move to Real Madrid in January this year.
Joining the academy proved to be a turning point for Gustavo because it paved the way for the rise to prominence. He would improve his skills and gather more pace to devastate the opposition.
In the Copa Sul-Americana Amizade Joia, 2014 in Adamantina, he finished as the top scorer netting 16 goals. The Sao Paulo hierarchy was impressed by the young talent and immediately brought him under their wings – the first big move for the teenager.
Journey at Sao Paulo
But the start was not a rosy one as the natural skills failed to outweigh the professional set-up until the year 2018.
At the youth level, he has played 102 matches for Sao Paulo. In 2016, Gustavo scored eight goals in 20 appearances for the Under-15s, but it was around 2018 that his true-self started to garner more eyeballs.
From 36 games in 2018, he bagged 30 goals and a handful of assists to go with that for the Under-17 side.
FIM DE JOGO!
Palmeira-RN 1×9 São Paulo
🏆 Copinha – 2ª rodada (Grupo 29)
⚽ 0x1 – Anílson
⚽ 0x2 – Ed Carlos
⚽ 1×2 – Suelynton
⚽ 1×3 – Anílson
⚽ 1×4 – Galeano
⚽ 1×5 – Juan Santos
⚽ 1×6 – Luizão
⚽ 1×7 – Galeano
⚽ 1×8 – Gustavo Maia
⚽ 1×9 – Facundo pic.twitter.com/ZJ1nE4tS1D
— Goleada Info (de 🏠) (@goleada_info) January 8, 2020
In 2019, for the Under-20s, Gustavo bagged eight goals in 28 appearances in the Brasileiro U20 and the Paulista U20 competitions.
Moreover, 23 of these 28 appearances came as a substitute, underlining his ability to impact games.
In December 2019, he truly began his push for a place within Fernando Diniz’s first team.
As the New Year began, Gustavo went from having a regular role as a substitute to one of Sao Paulo’s key players during their run to the quarter-finals of the Sao Paulo Youth Cup.
His performances and goals quickly convinced Diniz to give him a chance to train alongside the likes of Dani Alves, Alexandre Pato, and Hernanes at the senior level.
Style of play
Gustavo is just 167cm tall and weighs just 59 kg.
He can play the role of a striker, supporter of a striker or left-winger, and can even drop deeper and dictate link-up plays. Equally, he can taunt defenders with the ball at his feet. His quick feet and change of pace make him an unstoppable force.
Pace is his asset fantastic range of passing and he loves to have a go at goal.
Move to Barcelona
According to the reports of Spanish Outlet AS on March 3, 2020: Alexandre Pássaro, executive manager of Sao Paulo, has given details of the deal, “We sold the option to buy him for €1 million. Barcelona can buy him in half a year; in the case they want him. He has a value of €4.5 million”.
“It is one of those things in which we try to bring in money without necessarily losing the player in this instance”, he continued.
Barcelona will purchase 70% of the rights of Sao Paulo striker Gustavo Maia (19). The Catalan club will pay 4.5 million euros for the striker's rights. [as] pic.twitter.com/PN8Wc56DjA
— barcacentre (from 🏡) (@barcacentre) June 2, 2020
On June 2, 2020, Goal reports: Barcelona will activate a purchase option on Sao Paulo teenager Gustavo Maia this June, according to the player’s agent. Barca are required to pay an additional €3.5m to sign Maia permanently and his representative Danilo Silva is confident it will happen.
Is Barcelona the right place for Gustavo?
Without a doubt, Barcelona are one of the best clubs in Europe and it is a dream for any youngster to play alongside great players. But recently, Barcelona have not been the ideal place for the Brazilians to flourish. Philippe Coutinho lost his Midas touch in Camp No, Malcom went wasted, while in the past legends like Romario and Ronaldo O Fenomeno had a bitter experience at the Catalan Club. Then Neymar felt ignored and left the club – even though the news of his return to Camp Nou still helps in click-bait journalism. But as a matter of fact, Neymar should not return there.
Gustavo Maia is expected to shine in Europe, but Barcelona the right choice? Recently Brazilians have not been given the freedom to play their way in Barca only for the sake of one person's comfort. Such things are a hurdle for young talents to flourish.
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) June 3, 2020
The problem is with the system of Barca, where right now, the focus remains to create a system, which would suit one player and not others. But none seems to notice that or remain silent despite noticing.
Such a ploy becomes a hurdle for Brazilian players, who love to play with enough freedom, which Barca does not provide. This ploy is also a hurdle for the young talents to flourish.
Barca want to fill the gap created by Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain. A lot was expected from Dembele, but at the end of the day, he flopped. The talent of Gustavo impressed Barca experts and they hope, he might be the ideal replacement of Neymar on the left-wing.
But to achieve the best from Gustavo, Barca need to give him the full freedom to express.