Meet Danilo: The combative Arsenal target who once cried at a referee

Danilo, Porto

Michael Yokhin introduces the tough-tackling midfielder who could solve the Gunners' engine-room woes

The 60-second story

Danilo has been heavily linked with the north Londoners, with Arsene Wenger reportedly willing to spend £34m on the combative midfielder

Arsenal's ill-fated search for the next Patrick Vieira, which appears to be eternal and at times hopeless, has led them to yet another name. Danilo, the 25-year-old Portugal international who's excelled for Porto in the last two seasons, has been heavily linked with the north Londoners, with Arsene Wenger reportedly willing to spend £34m on the combative midfielder.

Liverpool are also thought to be in the frame, but the Premier League sides' hopes of landing him in the January window were dealt a severe blow when Danilo signed a new contract until 2022 – with a €60m release clause – earlier this week.

Danilo

Danilo gets away from Chelsea's Diego Costa in the Champions League last term

Why you need to know about him

FACT FILE

  • Date of birth: Sep 9, 1991
  • Place of birth: Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Former club(s): Parma, Aris (loan), Roda (loan), Maritimo
  • Current club: Porto (71 apps, 8 goals)
  • International: Portugal (17 caps, 1 goal)

It's fair to say that Danilo's had an unusual career up to now. Born in Guinea-Bissau in September 1991, he arrived in Portugal at the age of six and immediately began playing for an academy side named Arsenal 72 on the outskirts of Lisbon (Gunners fans may consider that a sign from above). After a spell at Estoril he then joined Benfica aged 16, impressing former Portugal star Rui Aguas – who declared "the kid has enormous physical and technical potential" – along the way.

Those skills were evident during the European Under-19 Championship in 2010, when Danilo excellent in a 2-0 defeat of Italy. Serie A clubs queued up to sign him in the aftermath: Juventus, Milan, Inter and Genoa were all interested, but Parma eventually won the race for his signature.

A move away from Benfica was inevitable at that stage, with Danilo feeling undervalued and underrated by the Eagles; he was also disappointed by the treatment he received from reserve team coach Diamantino, who went on to coach second-tier Fatima – a club Benfica wanted Danilo to join on loan. 

Unfortunately for the youngster, Parma didn't really believe in him either, and his Italian adventure soon became a nightmare. Even though the midfielder was very instrumental in leading Portugal's Under-20s to the World Cup final, scoring a majestic goal against Antoine Griezmann's France in the semis along the way, he proceeded to waste two years of his career - a period which included a disastrous short-term loan spell at Aris in Greece. By the time he'd finished another loan at Roda, which was moderately successful in 2012/13, Danilo discovered that he was unwanted and forgotten. 

In 2013, he was a free agent and found himself at a crossroads in his career. No top club was interested so he instead joined Maritimo, a modest outfit from Madeira who were handsomely repaid for their faith in the midfielder. Danilo never looked back after moving to the Estadio do Maritimo, and by the summer of 2015 Porto and Sporting were battling it out for his services.

The former came out on top, with Danilo continuing to grow 18 months after joining the 27-time Portuguese champions. He was also part of the country's victorious squad at Euro 2016, starting two matches, and impressed as Porto progressed to the knockout stage of this season's Champions League. At the age of 25, Danilo seems ready to take another forward step in his career.

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Danilo rises highest to win a header against Benfica in November

Strengths

Admired for his stamina and ball-winning skills, the 25-year-old is quick and capable of covering plenty of ground

Danilo is an imposing figure in the engine room: standing at 6ft 2in, he's physically strong, good in the air and a fine all-round athlete. Admired for his stamina and ball-winning skills, the 25-year-old is quick and capable of covering plenty of ground, while he also likes to join the attack and possesses a decent shot from distance – eight league goals in 48 Porto appearances is a good return for a player in his position.

Weaknesses

William Carvalho is the preferred starter for Portugal in his position, principally because he's a quicker thinker and more subtle in possession

Danilo isn't bad with the ball at his feet, but his technical skills are still far from perfect. He is not imaginative enough, doesn't attempt enough through-balls, and his distribution need to improve in order for him to become a world-class central midfielder.

Sporting's William Carvalho is the preferred starter for Portugal in his position, principally because he's a quicker thinker and more subtle in possession.

Danilo

Danilo chases down Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

They said...

"He's the symbol of Porto's revival," says Maisfutebol editor Pedro Cunha. "[Danilo is] one of the most exciting products of Portuguese football."

Did you know...

While at Roda, Danilo was involved in a bizarre incident with a referee: Tom van Sichem booked the midfielder for foul language in a mach against Heracles and was rather taken aback when the Portuguese burst in tears.

Danilo wept and accused the official of cursing him and his mother, although the official denied the claims and the club subsequently ruled that it was merely a misunderstanding. Danilo appears to be much less sensitive nowadays, though.

Danilo

Leicester can testify to Danilo's strength in the tackle

What happens next

With the ink still drying on his new deal, Danilo is unlikely to be England-bound this month, but he'll almost certainly leave Porto much earlier than 2022. The Portuguese giants are brilliant negotiators – they extracted €31.5m from Real Madrid for another Danilo, the Brazilian right-back, in 2015 – and would expect an even better fee for the midfielder. 

Danilo, meanwhile, will be hoping that his fate is different from that of his namesake, who has failed to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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