Gabriel Magalhaes: Who is Everton target?
Everton have made an offer for Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes, but is he suited to the Premier League?
By Nick Grounds
Last Updated: 27/03/20 9:58pm
Everton have joined the race to sign promising Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes. Ahead of a proposed transfer, Nick Grounds explains why the defender is so highly sought after.
Another unnamed English club and two Italian sides have reportedly had offers accepted and the Brazilian is expected to choose his next destination in the next 10 days.
Gabriel joined Lille from Brazilian side Avai for just £1.5m three years ago and has featured in the Champions League - playing twice against Chelsea in this season's group stages.
Promising centre-halves are a rare breed, let alone left-sided ones. At 22 years old, Gabriel is far from the finished article, but both Leicester and Arsenal were reportedly interested in January, while to have Italian suitors proves there is a quality defender in there.
International caps: None - capped at Brazil U20 level
Gabriel started his career at Avai, a side who currently play in the second tier of Brazilian football.
After 21 appearances he made the move to Europe in January 2017, signing for Ligue 1 side Lille for a fairly modest fee of £1.5m.
Gabriel initially struggled to adapt to senior football at Lille and went out on loan twice. First to Troyes, where he spent the first half of the 2017/18 season, before a temporary move to Dynamo Zagreb in January 2018.
First-team opportunities continued to evade him, moving between the reserve and senior sides before returning to Lille for the start of the 2018/19 season.
Will he adapt quickly to the Premier League?
Gabriel took his time to cement himself in the side, not starting a Ligue 1 game until February 2019. But he has not looked back since; forging a relatively successful partnership with former Southampton player Jose Fonte at centre-back.
After a seven-year absence, Gabriel helped Lille qualify for the Champions League in 2018/19, finishing second in Ligue 1 to PSG.
Gabriel has continued his ascent this season, with a string of impressive performances both domestically and in the Champions League.
What are his key attributes?
Although Lille finished bottom of Group H, they faced Valencia, Chelsea and last season's semi-finalists Ajax. Starting all six group games, performances have alerted some of Europe's biggest clubs.
No Lille player has attempted more forward passes this season (578), while only his defensive partner Fonte has completed more passes than Gabriel's 1220.
A team-high 243 of those were completed as long passes into the opposition half, meaning he would fit in well with Everton's focus on carrying out quick transitions under Carlo Ancelotti.
The Brazilian scored in Lille's 2-1 win at Strasbourg in February, and he has been an aerial threat at set-pieces throughout the campaign. Only five centre-backs have had more attempts on goal than the Everton target (17).
Lille currently lie fourth in Ligue 1, one point off Rennes who occupy the final Champions League spot. Should Lille secure a passage to Europe's premier club competition for a second successive season, it will be in no small part down to their talented young Brazilian. Even if it transpires to be a parting gift.
So will Gabriel be heading to England soon?
Gabriel signed a new deal with Lille in January until 2023, and he has already responded to reports linking him with a move to the Premier League, telling Brazilian outlet Globo Esporte: "I just renewed the contract.
"I heard about conversations, I saw things on websites in England, but I have my head in Lille. I'm very calm to finish the season well and to achieve great things next season."
Ancelotti will no doubt be impressed by Gabriel's character.
At the age of 13, he showed dedication to his career by taking a 12-hour bus journey to Florianopolis to join Avai having been born and raised in Sao Paulo's Pirituba district. Upon his arrival at Lille, he taught himself French and now conducts interviews in the language.
Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, Gabriel would have featured for Brazil's Under-23 Olympic side in friendlies set up against Croatia and Egypt this month. The year's long-term goal was to defend the gold medal won at Rio 2016 in Tokyo.
With the sporting event now postponed, another obstacle emerges. Gabriel turns 23 in December, meaning he will not fall within the age group to play football at the Games, but the hope is that the International Olympic Committee and FIFA will make exceptions for those who would have been eligible to play this summer.
Did you know?
Lille decreased their goals conceded per match in Ligue 1 after February 3, 2020. From December 5, 2019 to this date, they were at 1.67 goals conceded per match.
Since then, they are at 0.33 goals conceded per match. Gabriel played in all but one of those six games, with Lille's only defeat in that time - a 2-1 loss to Marseille - the game he missed.