To most strikers being a sturdy 6ft 2 would define their game; with Leandro Damiao it’s merely an additional weapon in his armoury. His strength simply affords him further opportunities to display his array of flicks, tricks and exquisite touch. Typical flashy Brazilian. Always showing off.
Yet Damiao’s extravagance is never meant as gleeful exhibitionism, rather they’re to constantly prove a point. It’s samba with a vengeance.
Anyone who saw his international debut back in March against Scotland would have assumed that here was another blessed kid with Copacabana sand between his toes whose career trajectory to this point was an explosive, swift rise through the youth levels to the Brasileirao. Amazing one and all along the way and probably being harassed daily from a prepubescent age by predatory agents all wanting a share in the inevitable goldmine. Yet Damiao is a rarity – almost an oddity – amongst top class Brazilians. His path has largely been one of struggle and a prolonged battle to prove wrong his many doubters. We are sadly all-too-familiar with stories of South American wonderkids overcoming the adversity of extreme poverty in classic rags to riches circumstances. But impoverishment of talent?
His bid to secure a professional contract consisted of one failed trial after another until finally he made a personal plea to the president of Atletico Tubarao for a last chance to shine. Having a failed trialee foisted back upon you on the whim of his president presumably didn’t go down too well with the Tubarao coach so perhaps it was this that made him push the gangly teen further forward from his usual midfield berth. Who knows, maybe it was expert intuition? Whatever the reason suddenly everything about Damiao’s game began to make sense. Every component, from the gliding runs, to his hawkish ability to hang in the air a critical moment longer than his marker, to his wispish touch, all slotted into place like the last stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Then came the goals. Lots of them. Damiao tore through the lower league defences with such regularity that sure enough the bigger clubs started to take note.
Harry can never resist a traffic player who’s a world beater on their day, and Damiao certainly falls into this category
He was still no teenage sensation however. Despite a move to Internacional it took a further three seasons development in their B team before a crucial strike in last year’s Copa Libertadores finally brought him to national prominence and this, plus a string of exhilarating performances in the Brasileirao, duly caught the attentions of Brazil head honcho Mano Menezes. And a certain Harry Redknapp.
Harry can never resist a traffic player who’s a world beater on their day, and Damiao certainly falls into this category, but there is something else that particularly appeals to the Spurs gaffer and that is Damiao’s imposing frame. All summer long the arch wheeler and dealer has been concentrating his search on tall skilful strikers (the diminutive Giuseppe Rossi aside) who can best compliment the intelligent movement of Van der Vaart. As much as he values the pragmatic virtues of Crouch he patently views him as being far too ‘bread and butter’ to fully benefit from the probing nous of the Dutch schemer and – for reasons that I’ll forever fail to fathom – he doesn’t appear to rate Pavlyuchenko full stop.
So Adebayor has been drafted in – expensive wages and all – on a season-long loan deal, and now, according to today’s press reports, there is a fresh bid brewing for Damiao.
Tottenham offered nine million smackers back in June which was hastily rejected by Inter and rightly so. It was a derisory valuation for a twenty-two year old international who’s on the cusp of realising his full exciting potential. Now estimations vary between 16-22 million depending on which newspaper you read.
Whether the Brazilian youngster can adapt to the harsh, demanding climes of the Premier League is a legitimate doubt, as is a concern about his suitability as a lone frontman, but his natural ability is not in question, nor is his determination to succeed. In his favour is the probable intention of Redknapp to bleed him through gradually as Spurs’ fourth option; an inexperienced impact sub in the role that Wickham was expected to fulfil until his move north to Sunderland.
Which might mean a little more patience is required from the pup from Parana, near Sao Paulo, before he gets an opportunity to shine and prove his doubters wrong all over again.
This article originally appeared in the Sabotage Times