For a few months now, 18-year-old Brazilian wonderkid Gerson has been heavily linked with a rich move to Europe. The two teams who have fought the most for his signing are Champions League finalists Barcelona and Juventus, and the Blaugrana are ahead in the race, having acquired priority to sign him once the transfer ban ends in 2016.
When the rumors linking Paul Pogba to Catalonia started to gain a lot of traction, many reported that Gerson could be involved in the deal. Barça still wants Pogba badly, and the Bianconeri were willing to give him away as long as the Brazilian went to Italy. The deal never came through, however, so both Pogba and Gerson are still in their respective clubs.
After failing to convince the French phenom to join, Barça has turned its full attention to the Brazilian pearl. But is he really this good? Let's scout him.
At 18 years old, two things immediately stand out about Gerson: his physical presence and his speed. He might look leaner than what you'd expect for a central midfielder, but he's actually stronger than he looks. A lot stronger. He doesn't fall over easily with every contact from a defender, and he knows how to use his body to shield the ball when running with it.
But the young man is incredibly quick. That's why he currently plays on the wings on Fluminense's scheme. The Rio de Janeiro giants use a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Gerson usually plays on either side of the three-man line of attacking midfielders behind the main striker. Even though his style of play is built to make him shine on the center of the pitch, Gerson's ability to move quickly without the ball and free himself to attack on the the wings are fundamental to his team's system. He's also a counter-attacking beast, especially with the ball.
Because Brazilian teams now are not really comfortable with high possession and passing numbers, it is difficult to precisely say how good of a passer Gerson is since the sample is so small. However, he does have a very impressive 96% pass accuracy rate, which is always attractive for Barça diehards.
One obvious thing to say is that Gerson is very raw, which is almost always the case with 18-year-olds. Perhaps his biggest weakness is that he zones in and out of games too much. It's hard to find a super consistent performance. You can usually see 20-30 awesome minutes followed by a wild sequence of miscues, bad tackles and nerves. He's a world-class midfielder in those awesome moments, and then he's just a teenager for most of the games.
However, you could attribute his inconsistency to the scheme. As said earlier, Gerson is very good on the wings, but it's on the center of the pitch where his game shines the most. His long passes from a Xavi-esque position are ridiculously accurate, and his ability to dribble and fool defensive midfielders while running with the ball always stand out when he plays in the middle. His long shots are very powerful.
That's where the Pogba comparison becomes so accurate. Both are so good and versatile than coaches mistakenly assume they can just play everywhere, and forget what their true strong points are. Both are pace monsters in the middle of the park, and they don't need to be on the box all the time to be effective, which is exactly what you'd expect from a central midfielder.
Comparing him to Pogba right now is foolish since the French has turned into one of the best players in the world. However, Pogba is 21, and Gerson is 18. The Brazilian is very similar to the Juventus star when he was 18, and their potential is more or less the same because of their physical and technical attributes.
If Barça finally land Gerson, they'll deal with a raw talent that's actually more polished than expected for his age. Remember, not all 18-year-olds are Neymar Jr.'s and Lionel Messi's. If treated correctly, Gerson could become a beast in a position that's so critical to Barça, and that's very exciting.