Gabriel Menino is the explosive all-action Brazilian midfielder who won the treble in his first season and has been compared to Yaya Toure… the Palmeiras star linked to Chelsea and Spurs can play in four positions and is set to spark a transfer war
- Palmeiras starlet Gabriel Menino is the latest Brazilian attracting huge interest
- The versatile midfielder is said to be a target for the likes of Chelsea and Spurs
- The 20-year-old has been compared to Yaya Toure due to his explosive nature
- Sportsmail runs the rule over the youngster and analyses his best qualities
Brazil has long been a hotbed for talent spotters in the Premier League – and it looks like scouts may have found the next exciting prospect in Palmeiras’ Gabriel Menino.
The 20-year-old midfielder is said to be attracting huge interest from the Premier League after news that his cash-strapped side could be ready to sell him for just £13million – despite having a hefty release clause of £51m.
With the ability to play in multiple positions, clubs across Europe are now reportedly queuing up for his signature – including Chelsea and Tottenham – but if he does become available on a cut-price fee then they’ll face stiff competition from the powermakers on the continent.
But what are Menino’s best qualities, what kind of player is he and what makes him such an attractive proposition for top clubs? Sportsmail provides the lowdown on Palmeiras’ latest prospect.
Palmeiras star Gabriel Menino is attracting a host of interest from teams across Europe
WHO IS HE?
Starting off at Guarani FC in Brazil’s second division in 2013, Menino began as an exciting central defender with explosive pace, but he quickly showed coaches that he might have a future in midfield thanks to his ability to burst forwards and get into promising positions in the box.
After successfully evolving his game, he was spotted by top-tier outfit Palmeiras four years later at the age of 16 – spending two years with their academy honing his skills, and later helping the youth side win the U17 Copa do Brasil.
He would have to wait another year before being integrated into the first team – and it was a memorable debut campaign as he featured 26 times and added two more pieces of his silverware to his collection as Palmeiras won the treble of the top flight title, Brazilian Cup and the Copa Libertadores.
The versatile 20-year-old started his career as a defender but has transitioned into midfield
He already has three trophies to his name after a superb start to his career with Palmeiras
Not a bad start – especially given his campaign was heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
All that progress has not gone unnoticed on the national stage. He’s played seven games for the Selecao U20 outfit, but received his first international call-up from Brazil boss Tite in September.
While he didn’t feature – being forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid – it’s clear that he is comfortably in the running for a future outing and will be given further opportunities to show what he can do on the highest level and surrounded by quality players.
WHAT’S HIS STYLE OF PLAY?
Like most Brazilians, Menino has bags of skills and will showcase that ability wherever he might be on the pitch.
And this guy gets around. He’s had that grounding as a centre-back, so has no problems filling in there if need be – and his speed and acceleration has made him a useful asset at both right-back and on the wing in an advanced position.
He’s strong too – hence why he’s been compared by some to former Manchester City midfield general Yaya Toure, and can often be seen dancing around his opponents in the middle of the park and charging forward menacingly at defences.
Menino has been compared to Yaya Toure thanks to his explosive style as a box-to-box player
He is the whole package – with great vision, dribbling ability and flexibility to play in many roles
Menino is something of an all-rounder – a box to box star who is the whole package. He prefers to play on the right side when deployed as a centre-mid as a right-footed player. His ability to play with both feet might be an element he could do with a little more work on as he climbs up the ranks and garners more attention.
He’s not much of a goalscorer, having only scored one senior goal – but if that strike was an indication of what we can expect to come then he’s set the bar pretty high.
The youngster broke his duck with a stunning long-range drive from about 35 yards out in the Copa Libertadores against Bolivar to make it 2-0 and aid their progress on their way to lifting the trophy.
Menino is strong too – with a great skills in the middle of the park as he looks to take people on
But what he lacks in goals he certainly makes up for with his creativity – he shows superb vision and delivery and has chipped in with six assists this season.
In his last handful of start for the team, he’s played equally in centre-mid and on the right wing – as he did when he played the Copa Libertadores final – but has also been deployed at wing back this season.
It’s this adaptability that makes him such an attractive proposition and his willingness to switch up his play to provide a threat in different areas.
WHO IS INTERESTED?
Chelsea and Tottenham lead the names keeping tabs on Menino in England, according to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, but they won’t be alone in their interest as a couple of big name European sides are also in the hunt for him.
Juventus are big admirers too, alongside LaLiga outfit Atletico Madrid, according to UOL in Brazil.
New Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has been experimenting with his options this season as he looks to find his best combination in midfield – but Menino’s ability to add depth at right back, providing competition to Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James – would certainly interest him.
Thomas Tuchel is reportedly keen and is said to admire his ability to also play at right-back
Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus are also potential suitors for Menino
The Blues also don’t have too many indisputable names on the right flank, so he would bolster that area too, as well as add to Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in the middle. Spurs, meanwhile, are crying out for some creativity in their midfield with Jose Mourinho said to be looking for a creative star who can help his side open teams up.
It could come down to where Menino feels he’s going to play the most football. His versatility helps, but nailing down a regular spot will be tough at Chelsea given their ability to sign a host of top players.
WHAT’S BEEN SAID?
It’s no coincidence that Menino has been linked to Yaya Toure – his youth coach specifically advised him to observe the former Ivory Coast star’s style when he was rising through the ranks.
Speaking to ESPN, Gustavo Nabinger told of how he worked closely with Menino to help him make the transition from defence to midfield.
‘I used to work at Guarani and I was the Under-14 and 15s coach,’ he said.
Menino has been one of Palmeiras’ most promising stars to break through in recent years
‘We had an agreement with Morungaba’s ‘Bugrinho’ and they always used to bring us promising players to look at.
‘Menino came at the end of 2013 to trial as a centre-back and he was quickly approved. But I quickly changed his position, because he was good going forward and getting into the box.
‘He marked well, like he does now, and he was strong for his age but not very tall.
‘He got promoted to a higher age group and trained most of the year. He played 10 games, but was on the bench most of the time. We talked a lot, and I made him watch videos of Yaya Toure.’
Brazil boss Tite sees a future for him as a right back after handing the player his first call-up
With Menino finally receiving his first call up for Brazil, Tite admitted the youngster was a serious talent for the national side, and said he felt his ability to play as a right-back could work out for Brazil, and challenged him to make the position his own.
‘He has played seven games in that position for Palmeiras,’ he said last year after calling him up for World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru in October.
‘He also trained as a youth at full-back. We have looked at all his personal and technical abilities. We tracked his entire history, as well as watching four games in the stands and eight on television. He is a new talent coming up in a crucial position for us.’
The player himself displays passion and pride for the shirt he wears – and after fulfilling every young Brazilian’s dream of being selected for his country, he couldn’t help but hide his emotions – explaining his shock of getting the nod from Tite.
Menino admitted he was full of emotion after the news he had been picked by the Selecao
‘I was having lunch with my mother, my agent called and he congratulated me,’ he told UOL. ‘And I said, ‘Again?’ I thought it was for my goal [against Bolivar].
‘He then said I was going to wear the yellow shirt, and I didn’t understand. So, he sent the video. I was emotional, my mother too, we cried together and that was when I began to understand.’
Plenty of young Brazilian stars emerge year by year – but not many of them have had quite the same speedy impact as Menino.
The challenge for this exciting and versatile talent is to keep up the extraordinary level of consistency and maturity he’s shown over the last couple of years.
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