With the summer transfer window officially open, it’s time for a 12-week free-for-all for clubs trying to bolster their squads with new signings.
Gabriel Magalhaes has suddenly become one of the most popular names in the game over the last few days, with a number of clubs expressing an interest in his services.
The 22-year-old has enjoyed a fine season in France with Lille, returning this season as a mainstay in the side following loan spells at Troyes and Dinamo Zagreb. Sky Sports report that Manchester United and Everton are interested in Gabriel, with his representatives expected in the UK to discuss a potential move to the Premier League. Napoli were also linked, but have cooled their interest.
Gabriel is expected to be available for a fee of around £20m, with Lille (and Ligue 1 as a whole) not exactly rolling in cash, and the 22-year-old still fairly inexperienced at the top level.
While United and Everton are both said to be chasing the Brazil Under-20 international, he – largely on account of playing fewer than 40 games in a ‘top 5’ league – isn’t someone about whom much is known to the casual fan. So, where exactly would Gabriel fit in at either side?
Standing at 6’3, Gabriel is strong in the air and on the floor. Like a prime 1990s Undertaker, his footwork is *sigh* good for a big man. He averaged a pass success rate of 82.2% in Ligue 1 last season, and made 111 passes into the final third. His range of passing and vision going forward is what makes him more than just a rock at the back. Let’s face it, modern clubs like a Renaissance man.
Despite this being his first full season in the French top flight, Gabriel was commanding, averaging 3.5 successful aerial duels per game in the league. If tidy footwork wasn’t enough to entice Manchester United, then the prospect of someone looking at ease under an aerial barrage may well be. See? Renaissance man.
It’s easy to read this stats overload and get excited about the 22-year-old, but it’s important to remember that he’s just finished his first season at a remotely competitive level and he’ll need time to adjust wherever he moves. While at United he’s likely to rotate with and challenge Lindelof with a view to being Harry Maguire’s centre back partner, it’s a different story at Everton.
The Toffees are set to undergo another transition as they look to get the best out of Carlo Ancelotti’s spell as manager. The veteran Italian has already put his mark on the side by switching them into a typical 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, which looks to get the best out of their forwards in counter-attacking situations.
As exciting as it has been for Everton fans to have his presence at Goodison Park, he needs some signings this summer if they want to improve, and Gabriel is the perfect man for him on paper. His accurate passing, particularly over long range, will be of serious appeal to the Italian, allowing Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and even Moise Kean to catch teams on the counter.
Everton have seemed to have held interest in the 22-year-old for much longer than United, being linked with a move for him before the lockdown. With owner Farhad Moshiri not being shy with reaching into his pockets, the ball could still be in their court.
For Gabriel, a move to Merseyside would likely guarantee more chances of first-team football, in a defensive partnership with Mason Holgate. Michael Keane hasn’t been the rock they were hoping for when they signed him back in 2017 and young Jarrad Branthwaite, despite impressing at the end of the season, is still probably a year or two off being ready to start full-time.
While questions are still being asked of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defence at United, there’s no doubt that the big money signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have left them looking much more stable at the back. They’ve conceded just 36 goals in the Premier League this season, meaning Gabriel would by no means be a sure-fire starter. Everton, meanwhile, have conceded 56 goals in the league this season, which is a major concern for a club who aspire to be in Europe.
Gabriel is certainly no finished product, but at just 22 and available for a fee around the £20m mark in today’s market, it’s merely a case of which club will take a gamble on him. Wherever he ends up, he needs time and consistency. At Manchester United, he might be told to fight for his place as the underdog, while at Everton he’s likely to be directly in the firing line.