Arsenal and Chelsea transfer target Gabriel Magalhaes comes from same academy as Hazard and Pepe, and he idolised Neymar – The Sun
GABRIEL MAGALHAES was something of an unknown quantity, until this season.
But now the Brazilian centre back is one of the first names on the team sheet for French side Lille and on Arsenal and Chelsea's radars.
Frank Lampard saw the youngster's talents first-hand this season, when the Blues faced off against the Ligue 1 side in the Champions League.
Immediately, he added Magalhaes to his summer wish list.
Joining Chelsea in the hunt for the £30million-rated star are London rivals Arsenal, as well as Everton.
Like Eden Hazard and Nicolas Pepe before him, Magalhaes has learned his trade at Lille's famed academy.
Strangely for a defender, though, he grew up idolising forward Neymar!
FROM BRAZIL TO FRANCE
Originally from Sao Paulo, the left-footed centre-half began his youth career at second division Avai FC.
He made his debut aged 18, and played 21 times for the club before he was plucked out of obscurity.
Adapting to his new surroundings, Magalhaes spent a year playing with Lille's 'B' team before he was thrust into the first team set-up.
However, it was too soon for the promising wonderkid, and he was sent on loan to find his feet elsewhere and get some valuable playing experience.
TROYES AND ZAGREB
A move away from Lille was thought to be in Magalhaes best interests, but it didn't pan out that way.
He toiled at Troyes in the French second division, playing just once in the first team – and five times in their 'B' side.
Then Magalhaes moved to Dinamo Zagreb, where he was equally unimpressive in his only game for the club.
It appeared that the defender had gone backwards.
REDEMPTION AT LILLE
Despite appearing to be surplus to requirements at Lille, he was given a squad number for the 2018-19 season.
When an injury to first team defender Adama Soumaoro presented him an opportunity in February 2019, he duly took it with both hands.
The 6ft 4in star has since looked solid and composed, keeping his place in the heart of Lille's defence ever since.
"It took me a while to get used to things in Lille, it was very difficult," he revealed.
"Today I am happy. The coach shows me that I am important for the team, I have responsibilities. Lille is my home now."
BUT FOR HOW LONG?
With a host of Premier League giants attracted to Magalhaes' physicality, it can't be long before he is playing on our shores.
He has made 34 starts in Ligue 1 and six in the Champions League, and is gaining valuable experience fast.
Playing alongside ex-Southampton star Jose Fonte, he is learning from the experienced Portuguese international.
Perhaps he's getting tips on what it's like to play in the Premier League too.
An imposing figure, Magalhaes isn't just a threat aerially in his own box, he's a menace in the opposition half.
So far he has won 64 per cent of his aerial battles, and his composure in possession has also won him plaudits.
Pace is another big asset to Magalhaes' game and it aids him in recovery when he makes a rare mistake.
Lille owner Gerard Lopez is famous for driving a hard bargain – getting big transfer fees for the likes of Hazard and Pepe.
And he's not been surprised by Magalhaes' progress.
"I am not surprised by its evolution in such a short time," he revealed.
"The only way to hatch talents is by giving them matches. Gabriel had the opportunity to chain them. We forget that he was captain of the U19 Brazil when he landed with us."
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