Norwich City have today completed the signing of the twenty-three-year-old Brazilian, Gabriel Sara on a four-year deal from Sao Paulo for an estimated fee of around £11.5 million. Sara now becomes the football club’s record transfer fee overtaking the £10 million spent on Milot Rashica last summer transfer window.
The young Brazilian becomes the first player from Brazil to ever play for the football club with many people automictically making the connection with the football club’s last South American midfield in Emi Buendia. It wouldn’t be fair to but the expectation of a gem found in the third division of Spain, however, there will be a high level of expectation on the young player's head with the club record fee hanging over him.
Sara has spent his whole career at Sāo Paulo Football Club joining them as a fourteen-year-old back in 2013. He broke into the first team in 2019 with a handful of appearances at the highest level after a couple of years in the Sao Paulo B side. He’s gone on to have two very successful years at the club making forty-four and forty-seven appearances in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
He has played a variety of positions at Sao Paulo mainly consisting of central midfield roles and also being able to play on the left side of midfield. He has been described as being able to play as a six, eight, and ten but is more effective when pushing forward and leading an attack.
Sao Paulo’s system relies upon playing out from the back so he can come deeper into the midfield to receive the ball and distribute the ball further up the pitch. However, according to South American football expert Juan Arango when speaking to the Pink Un, suggested that he isn’t a ‘stop-gap type of player’. This is suggesting that his creativity would be wasted in the middle of midfield as opposed to playing in a more advanced role as a number ten.
He also suggested that he’s ‘more valuable’ when playing in the number ten role as he is excellent in playing off a striker but to a manager like Dean Smith that ‘his versatility is very desirable’ if he needs him to play a role deeper in the midfield. In his last full season of football, he recorded ten goals and three assists in forty-seven matches but was constantly moved around in positions rather than having a set one that he could adapt to.
He is considered one of the best talents at the football club as he follows the trend of young South American players having their first few seasons to develop in their home countries before coming to Europe to take their game to another level. We have seen it with Alvarez of River Plate going to Manchester City and have seen it with other individuals too like Gabriel Martinelli. He adapts to positions very well so hopefully, he can use this to adapt to a very physical and tough league in the Championship.
I think for the football club this is a very good signing which sends out a message that we are very serious about plotting our return to the top flight of English football and it’s a club record signing as well. However, in the past, the pressure of being the club record signing has affected those such as Steven Naismith, Christos Tozlis, and most famously of all Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.
The signing of Sara is needed as the number ten or attacking midfield role at Carrow Road is lacking depth and quality currently. The only recognizable and natural attacking midfielder currently at the football club is Kieran Dowell who was effective last time out in the Championship and showed glimpses of quality of occasions in the Premier League but he is just too inconsistent to start every game. Even when the former Everton man played last season it was normally upfront in a two with Pukki or on the wing.
The club needs a recognisable attacking midfielder to replace Emi Buendia who left last summer to go to Aston Villa because not replacing him properly was one of the main reasons for the relegation last time out.
However, problems have already started to arise with this deal and the main one is the lack of game time due to injury so far this season. Gabriel has been out since April with an ankle injury and has missed all of Sao Paulo’s matches since that date which is a worry considering he will come into life at Carrow Road with no competitive football played for the previous four months.
Another frustrating element of this injury is that the timeframe for return is currently unknown due to Sao Paulo fans having low trust in their own medical team but we know that originally, he wanted to see out the season (December) at Sao Paulo to fully recover. The club managed to change this to get the deal done in July but we could face several weeks or many months before we get to see the new Brazilian superstar in yellow and green.
It’s going to be a hard transition into Championship football from the Brazilian league which is going to be made even more difficult by not having any pre-season matches to prepare himself so it is key that the backroom staff manage him correctly. What we do know is that Stuart Webber flew over to Brazil to get the deal “over the line” and that the club will pay £9.5 million with an extra £1.5 million in bonuses for possible promotion as well as cup successes.
All in all, it’s good to see the club showing their ambition by spending unlike summers gone by, and especially with us in the second tier of English football that they are willing to do what it takes to get us back up to the Premier League. There are still other areas of this team that need addressing and a number of them also rely upon players staying at the club as well.
There is plenty more business to get done at Carrow Road over the summer but sorting out the midfield was essential which the board have done by bringing in Isaac Hayden as well as Gabriel Sara. I’m sure there will be a couple more outgoings but hopefully some quality signings to come as well.