Gabriel Barbosa: Santos value technique over size

Gabriel Barbosa came through Santos' famed academy before joining Inter - he talks about the club's success in unearthing talent, his thirst for self-improvement and the importance of resilience for strikers

Santos have produced a number of Brazil internationals over the years – what has been the secret to the club’s success in developing young talent?

Quality is the only thing Santos care about when it comes to bringing a young talent into their youth teams. In modern football, it's common to see clubs going for big or strong lads. These characteristics are not crucial for being a great footballer, and Santos know this better than other clubs. They also do a good job in supporting the youngsters and their families. There are top level facilities for Santos youth teams, and they’re known for paying fairly the young talents. The tradition they have in developing youngsters also plays its part, as the kids and teenagers dream of being part of Santos. 

More after the break

What are your strengths on the pitch and are there any areas of your game you want to improve?

Any? I have to improve them all. There's no perfect player in the world. I'm still a youngster and I'm aware that I must work hard in every single training session in order to become a better footballer everyday. It's not only about giving everything on the pitch, but it's also important to listen to the manager. An external opinion from an experienced tutor is crucial to develop your game. I don't like to speak about my own qualities, but ok, let's try. I like to think of myself as a modern forward, who likes to move around and occupy different positions in attack to be able to help my team in different roles. Cool finishing is another strength of my game, in my opinion.  

A lot of Brazilian players credit Futsal for their tricks and skills – did you play the game as a child? If so, how did it improve your game?

Futsal is all about making decisions quickly and finding solutions in tiny spaces. Modern football doesn't give you much time to think. Therefore, my futsal background is very helpful when it comes to the pitch. It's right to say that futsal improves your skills and abilities to make tricks, but I think the main benefit to my professional career is thinking quicker and finding solutions before the opponent. 

If you could offer three tips to a young forward looking to score more goals, what would they be?

Just remember that the best players in the world also faced tough moments in their careers. There's no example of a player who was always in prolific form throughout his football life. Why would you be the one to avoid bad moments? Be humble to accept the bad period, work hard to put an end to it as soon as possible, and above all, believe in your strengths. Don't give up, got it? 

A number of impressive athletes have emerged from Brazil in recent years – players like Ramires, Paulinho, etc – is there a greater emphasis on athleticism in Brazil now than in previous years?

That's for sure. Football is becoming a more physical sport every day. If you are not prepared to be able to run hard for 90 minutes, you'll definitely miss your place into the team. But I think the Brazilian footballers also realised the importance of being in top form, and this is another reason for this phenomenon. Nowadays, many players have their own physical trainers and work hard away from the club, you know? 

How often do you use the gym and what type of exercises do you do to make sure you’re in good shape on the pitch?

It depends on the match schedule of the team. When there's a bigger gap between games, that's the time I use the gym more often. Regarding the type of exercises, it also depends on how I'm feeling after games. When I'm too tired, there is no point of exercising legs, for example. So it all depends on my body.    

Is there anything specific you do – sprint work, weights, agility etc that you think can really benefit attacking players?

I do these kind of exercises on the pitch, to be honest. Sprint and strength work are my favourite exercises, because I think they are crucial for attacking players. 

What do you eat and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner to make sure you’re fuelled for training and games?

I always try to eat light and healthy food, regardless if it's for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It doesn't matter if it's before or after the games as well. Everyday I eat rice, salads, pasta and fruits. Beverage? Drinking water will solve at least half of your problems, mate. Go for it.

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