‘Gabigol’ is one of the country’s most highly-rated prospects with 54 goals in 148 senior appearances for Santos. Arsenal approached the player and his agents earlier in the summer but understood that with the upcoming Rio Olympic games, Barbosa was likely to stay in his homeland until next year.
Capped four times by the senior squad, the striker is expected to play a leading role in Brazil’s chase for Olympic Gold when the games start next month. Juventus are prepared to permit him to represent his country and have lodged a formal €20m bid with his club, Santos.
Arsenal are not happy with any players taking part in the Olympics, fearing disruption to their own Premier League ambitions. With new managers and heavy investment at title rivals, the Gunners have blocked Nigeria’s attempts to call up Alex Iwobi, 20, for this summer’s tournament.
With FIFA not making participation mandatory, the Super Eagles are powerless to impose their will on the north London club.
Santos aren’t ready to surrender their prize asset cheaply. Club president Modesto Roma rattled his sabre in the local media, claiming: “Santos will do everything to keep its athletes.
“And the club wants Gabriel to fulfil his [contract] too, unless someone pays the release clause. We are open to talk, to negotiate. The career of a player isn’t only based on money”
Juventus won’t be deterred easily and a move to Europe seems inevitable for the striker. Whether it will be this summer remains to be seen.
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