Angelo Gabriel: Things to know about Santos’ record-breaking wonderkid

Few clubs have the same kind of reputation for producing exciting wingers as Santos.

Pele, Robinho, Neymar, Rodrygo…the list goes on, and the next gem off the production line looks to be 16-year-old Angelo Gabriel, whose performances for Santos have earned him links to both Liverpool and Real Madrid.

He hasn’t been in the public eye for very long, but has managed to become the youngest goalscorer in Copa Libertadores (at the age of just 16) recently. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about him.

Angelo’s Santos debut came with a special amount of hype. By entering the field on October 25, 2020, he became the second youngest player to ever wear the Santos shirt, moving ahead of a certain Pele in the standings.

Angelo was 11 days younger than Pele when he made his debut, leaving him behind only club legend Coutinho (not Philippe), who was a few weeks shy of his 15th birthday when he debuted in 1958.

“It is an inexplicable feeling to be with the seniors so soon,” he told the club’s official website. “It is an experience and I have to grab it with all my strength.”

Five months after his debut, Angelo was handed his first appearance in the Copa Libertadores, setting a new record in the process.

He became the youngest Santos player to ever feature in the competition, breaking the record set by now-Real Madrid man Rodrygo by almost an entire 12 months.

In July 2020, Angelo was promoted to the Santos Under-20 setup, despite being just 15 years of age.

He needed just three months with that team to prove he was too good, and manager Cuca was left with no choice but to promote him to the first-team squad.

He’s always been ahead of the grade at club level, but when it comes to international teams, he’s yet to move past the Under-16s.

If you want to know about Angelo’s play style, I’ll let him do the talking.

“My strongest feature is one-on-ones, the dribble,” he said. “I’m very fast and I love giving assists, but I also really like being brave and exciting. It’s important at Santos.”

In his Copa Libertadores debut, he used those skills to tear the Venezuelan’s apart. He might not have ended up with an assist, but he was the game’s best player by a long way.

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Some close to Angelo have compared him to Neymar | MAURICIO LIMA/Getty Images

Being a young winger coming through at Santos must be a tough gig. If you’re even slightly good at football, you’ll get compared to at least one of Rodrygo, Neymar, Robinho or Pele.

In Angelo’s case, it’s Neymar.

“He reminds me of Neymar because of his dribbling at speed and change of direction,” said Betinho, the man who first discovered an eight-year-old Angelo, in an interview with Correio Braziliense. “A very interesting player who will evolve and shine.”

Comparisons to Neymar are all well and good, but for Angelo, there’s only one player to try and emulate, and it just so happens to be arguably the greatest player of all time.

Angelo’s father told Estadao the youngster’s three idols are Pele, Neymar and Robinho – “exactly in that order.”

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Angelo likes watching Barcelona | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid might be keen on Angelo, but bringing him in might be a little tricky because he has admitted to preferring Barcelona.

He told AS: “I quite like Barcelona and I identify a lot with the club because of their style of play.”

Having said that, Angelo also admitted to having spoken to Real man Rodrygo about how to manage all the pressure at such a young age, so Los Blancos might have a foot in the door there.

Angelo doesn’t shy away from his desire to test himself in Europe at some point in his career, and when he does inevitably make the move, he believes England or Spain could be the best landing spot.

“I would fit better in La Liga or the Premier League because they are leagues that have a physical game and that require a player to break lines with improvisation, passing and dribbling.”

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