Manchester United have joined the race for the free-scoring Brazilian, here's the facts, figures, strengths and weaknesses of the man from Internacional...
To most strikers being a sturdy 6ft 2 would define their game; with Leandro Damiao it’s merely an additional weapon in his armoury. His strength simply affords him further opportunities to display his array of flicks, tricks and exquisite touch. Typical flashy
. Always showing off.
Yet Damiao’s extravagance is never meant as gleeful exhibitionism, rather they’re to constantly prove a point. It’s samba with a vengeance.
Anyone who saw his international debut back in March against Scotland would have assumed that here was another blessed kid with Copacabana sand between his toes whose career trajectory to this point was an explosive, swift rise through the youth levels to the Brasileirao. Amazing one and all along the way and probably being harassed daily from a prepubescent age by predatory agents all wanting a share in the inevitable goldmine. Yet Damiao is a rarity – almost an oddity – amongst top class Brazilians. His path has largely been one of struggle and a prolonged battle to prove wrong his many doubters. We are sadly all-too-familiar with stories of South American wonderkids overcoming the adversity of extreme poverty in classic rags to riches circumstances. But impoverishment of talent?
His bid to secure a professional contract consisted of one failed trial after another until finally he made a personal plea to the president of Atletico Tubarao for a last chance to shine. Having a failed trialist foisted back upon you on the whim of his president presumably didn’t go down too well with the Tubarao coach so perhaps it was this that made him push the gangly teen further forward from his usual midfield berth. Who knows, maybe it was expert intuition? Whatever the reason suddenly everything about Damiao’s game began to make sense. Every component, from the gliding runs, to his hawkish ability to hang in the air a critical moment longer than his marker, to his wispish touch, all slotted into place like the last stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Then came the goals. Lots of them. Damiao tore through the lower league defences with such regularity that sure enough the bigger clubs started to take note.
He was still no teenage sensation however. Despite a move to Internacional it took a further three seasons development in their B team before a crucial strike in last year’s Copa Libertadores finally brought him to national prominence and this, plus a string of exhilarating performances in the Brasileirao, duly caught the attentions of Brazil head honcho Mano Menezes.
Whether the Brazilian youngster can adapt to the harsh, demanding climes of the Premier League is a legitimate doubt, as is a concern about his suitability as a lone frontman, but his natural ability is not in question, nor is his determination to succeed. His scoring record currently stands at 52 in 86 games for Internacional, with a sole strike for Brazil from his four appearances...
Which might mean a little more patience is required from the pup from Parana, near Sao Paulo, before he gets an opportunity to shine and prove his doubters wrong all over again.
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