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Fluminense midfielder Gerson looks set to become the latest young talent to follow the well-worn path from South America’s streets to the Nou Camp. And, as if Neymar, Messi and co were not a hard enough act to follow, he also has the reputation of his namesake, the Gérson of 1970 World Cup winning fame, to live up to.
Nicknamed the ‘Golden left foot’, the original Gérson was known as the ‘brain’ behind Brazil’s legendary 1970 side. That he was also a centre-midfielder who played for Fluminense makes press comparisons between the two men inevitable, but don’t expect the 18-year-old to be fazed.
Raised in a poor bairro in Nova Iguaça on metropolitan Rio’s far northern outskirts, Gerson’s life might have turned out very differently had it not been for his Dad, who would put down cones each night in the street to give improvised coaching sessions to the local kids.
It was thanks to this positive parental influence that, rather than becoming involved with drugs and gangs, Gerson was picked up by local side Fluminense, for whom he formed part of a victorious generation that won several youth titles.
Next came international recognition as he was called up to the Seleçao’s Under-20 squad at the age of just 17, providing three assists as he represented them in the South American Championship in January this year.
For his club Gerson is already one of the first names on the team sheet, this despite only making his senior debut in February, and he appeared 12 times as Fluminense progressed to the final of Rio’s state championship.
The new Paul Pogba?
As for his style of play, Juventus scout, Javier Ribalta, says Gerson is like a left-footed version of Juve’s powerful midfielder Paul Pogba, while according to Alexandre Gallo, formerly coach of Brazil’s Under-20s, he has great technical ability and is extremely skilful.
In addition, accurate passing and powerful shooting are hallmarks of the youngster’s game, as well as a tendency to drive forward with the ball from midfield.
His looks have seen him dubbed Eddie Murphy by teammates, but the moniker does not extend to Gerson’s comedic talents. In reality, he is shy off the pitch and does not tend to involve himself with the fooling around of the other young players during training.
Endowed with this focus, combined with talent in abundance, it is perhaps unsurprising that Gerson is already attracting the attention of Europe’s elite clubs.
Juventus reportedly had an 11 million Euro bid turned down in January, while just this week reports have confirmed that Fluminense have agreed a deal for Barcelona to be given first option for his signature once their transfer ban ends in January 2016.
That gives him the rest of the Brazilian league campaign to show the Catalunyan club that he really has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldinho and co.
Whether he makes it to the Nou Camp or not, though, one thing is certain: you haven’t heard the last of Gerson.
Written by Calum Leahy
Follow the fantastic website that he’s a part of on everything Brazilian football on Twitter @Sambafoot_En
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