Breaking the mould: Tottenham target Leandro Damiao is not your typical Brazilian striker

PROFILE
By Tom Webber

If Brazil is a country known, perhaps stereotypically, for strikers of immense individual ability and flair, then Internacional striker Leandro Damiao goes against the grain somewhat.

The imposing forward plays as if he had been born and trained across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe, but he still possesses that showman’s streak frequently associated with the Samba nation.


It is part of what makes him so appealing to European clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, and it is an understandable motive. But it is his strength of character that should be noted as it has been integral to his rapid and intense progression.

His extremely high work ethic has seen him become a starting striker for the Brazilian national team, and on his current form it is a position he could well fill when they host the World Cup in 2014.

While other promising youngsters, such as Neymar, Ganso and Lucas Moura, made their names at the more prestigious academies of Brazilian football, Damiao has taken a far more arduous path to the upper echelons of the Brasileiro.

A late bloomer, Damiao suffered regular rejections as he chased his dreams in the early stages of his career in rural Brazil. Playing as a midfielder, his talents were not recognised until a positional switch to his current centre-forward role secured a temporary contract with minnows Atletico Tubarao. From there he earned a chance with, and secured a move to, Santa Catarina side Atletico Ibirama, who had previously turned him away.

His impressive form was finally picked up on by one of the nation’s top clubs in Internacional in 2010. After initially being taken on loan, the Colorado acquired his rights having witnessed his potential first hand during first-team appearances in the Campeonato Gaucho, which included a debut brace against Ypiranga Erechim at the age of 20.

From then on, Damiao has been on an upward trend and he also scored in the final of the Copa Libertadores the same year as Inter won the trophy for just the second time in their history.

But it was 2011 that would truly serve as Damiao’s breakthrough period. After a disappointing Copa America, the national team was in need of new blood and, with the striker in the midst of a season that would see him score 38 goals in 51 games for his club, he provided an ideal fresh option.

Despite having made his debut against Scotland as a replacement for the injured Alexandre Pato in March of 2011, Damiao soon became part of the bigger picture.

LEANDRO DAMIAO
STRIKER | INTERNACIONAL

The 23-year-old may not be the archetypal Brazilian centre-forward, but this is what has been so influential in his commandeering of the national team’s attack. At over six feet tall he provides a physical focal point, something which the Selecao lacked at the Copa America, and his impressive aerial game allows for diversity in the play. But he is more than just a target man; Damiao is a predator.

There are few in Brazil who are as lethal as he inside the box. His physical nature allows him to welcome the ball under pressure and he also has the technique to create space and shoot. He acts on instinct and can score goals of any kind, from acrobatic bicycle kicks to poacher’s efforts.

However, he is not one to create for his team and instead he waits on others to make chances for him. He does not drop deep to get involved and thus can go missing for large parts of a match. This will not be accepted in Europe and he will be expected to up his work rate and contribute more to the team going forward.

Questions had been raised on his back-to-goal game but he has improved that drastically this year and is now capable of drawing in and involving team-mates around him.

Damiao’s form was contentious in the warm-up friendlies before the Olympic Games and led to questions as to whether he should retain his starting berth. However, he dispersed all doubts over his ability in London with six goals in five appearances as the Canarinho reached the final, only to suffer a shock loss to Mexico. The fact that he kept Pato on the bench shows just how highly rated he is.

The 23-year-old has the physique, technique and goal-scoring ability to succeed in Europe but he will not come cheap. The progression he has made over the last two years is tantamount to his determination and desire to become the best he can be.

Potential suitors should not be put off by a large transfer fee: they could well be purchasing Brazil’s starting striker for the 2014 World Cup.

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Galatasaray in talks to sign Sneijder

Galatasaray president Unal Aysal has revealed that the Turkish giants are in talks to sign Wesley Sneijder from Inter.

The Dutch playmaker has not featured for the Nerazzurri since the end of September, and looks to have no future at San Siro after rejecting a contract extension in December.

It was reported that coach Andrea Stramaccioni would continue to leave the former Real Madrid man out of his team unless he agreed to the new terms, which are worth significantly less than his current deal.

And it appears that the Turkish champions are now willing to offer him an escape route, as long as Inter lower their asking price.

“I had dinner with [Inter president] Massimo Moratti in Italy on Monday,” he told GSTV. “We spoke about how we can co-operate on football academies.

“The Wesley Sneijder topic was also on table. I can say we made positive progress on the prospect of signing Sneijder.

“I suppose it will be clear in a few days. We will negotiate the terms and hopefully get a discount on Sneijder’s fee. If they will agree on our offer financially then this move will be finalised.”

Sneijder, who was rumoured to be on the verge of a €30 million move to Manchester United during the summer of 2011, last turned out for Stramaccioni’s side against Chievo on September 26.

He recently admitted that he is likely to move away from the Giuseppe Meazza during the winter transfer window, which sparked interest from a number of European clubs.

“Clearly it’s better for everyone if I leave in January,” he told De Telegraaf.

“If that doesn’t happen, then I will stay. I have a contract until the end of June 2015 with Inter.”

One of the interested clubs was said to be Premier League strugglers Queens Park Rangers, but agent Soren Lerby was keen to stress that his client believes he deserves to play with a big European club.

“He is absolutely not interested in QPR and we haven’t heard directly from anyone there,” Lerby told BBC Sport.

“England probably has the top league in Europe, so it could appeal, but Wes would want to play for a top team.”

BREAKING NEWS: Galatasaray in talks to sign Sneijder

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Bender: Bayer blocked my move to Bayern

Lars Bender has revealed that Bayer Leverkusen blocked a possible summer transfer to Bayern Munich despite the midfielder speaking to the 2012 Champions League finalists on the phone.


The Germany international was reported to be close to a €22million move to the 21-time Bundesliga champions, that, despite signing a new contract with Bayer in March 2012.

But he has admitted that his current club stopped him from talking to the Allianz Arena outfit about a transfer.

I called a few times in the summer with Bayern but Bayer blocked the topic very quickly. Thus, the issue for me was off the table,” he told Express.de.

A request from Bayern makes you proud. But I had just extended my contract in Leverkusen in 2017 and you do not know if it would be the right club for you.”

The midfielder’s failure to secure a move meant he was unable to play alongside international partner Bastian Schweinsteiger at club level, but Bender was happy to receive praise from the 28-year-old after the Bayern Munich midfielder had said that Germany would have beaten Sweden in their epic 4-4 draw during the last round of World Cup qualifiers, if Bender had been playing.

He added: “I was not there. But if that is what he said, it makes me naturally proud. It shows that I have not done so much wrong in my career so far.

“When a player like Schweinsteiger says so, that is an honour for me.”

The 23-year-old is yet to win a Bundesliga title at Leverkusen, with twin brother Sven already the owner of two championship medals with Borussia Dortmund.

But Lars believes that it is only a matter of time before he begins to catch his sibling up in the silverware stakes.

Bender continued: “A title is a dream of every player. In our team, it’s really what’s inside. So far we have not got over the final hurdle. But it is a must for the club and we must get there soon.

“I can catch him up. But I do not grudge him the trophies. We both know that we must be thankful that we can both live our dream. It’s wonderful that we’re both so successful.”

Tottenham to make official €18m bid for Leandro Damiao

By Greg Stobart

Tottenham will make an official bid worth around £15 million (€18m) for Leandro Damiao in an attempt to add quality to their strikeforce as they push for a place in the Champions League next season.


Spurs have chased Damiao for two years but feel this transfer window could be the best time to finally land their man from Brazilian club Internacional, with the Londoners’ need for further forward options highlighted by Emmanuel Adebayor’s u-turn in deciding to play for Togo in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Damiao and Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho are the two major targets in the remainder of the January window for Spurs, who have already this month reached a pre-contract agreement to sign Lewis Holtby in June and bought youngster Zeki Fryers from Standard Liege.

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas is a keen admirer of Damiao, who the club first tried to sign in January 2011, and Internacional are believed to finally be ready to sell the 23-year-old with the Brazilian championship now out of season.

Damiao, who has 14 caps for Brazil, caught the eye as he finished top scorer in the 2012 Olympic Games with six goals, and is also attracting interest from Inter Milan having been the subject of several bids from Spurs over the last two years.

The deal to sign Damiao is particularly complicated due to third party investors and Internacional’s changing stance with regards to their star man, despite the ‘partnership agreement’ struck between the Brazilian club and Tottenham when Sandro moved to north London in 2010.

Asked last week about the prospect of Damiao moving to Tottenham or another big European club in January, the player’s agent Vinicius Prates said: “While Leandro Damiao stays at Internacional, Tottenham will always be interested.

“Andre Villas-Boas has liked him since he was Chelsea’s manager.”

The Portuguese coach has also publicly revealed his admiration for Damiao, a tall and powerful striker who likes to play on the last man and has superb eye for goal in the penalty area.

The move for Damiao is unrelated to Adebayor’s apparent change of heart in coming out of retirement to play in the African Cup of Nations in South Africa.

The Togolese striker has twice quite the national team but has now decided to play in the tournament, with the decision still to be officially confirmed before the deadline on Wednesday.

In any case, Spurs feel they need a striker to add to Jermain Defoe and Adebayor, who has scored just two Premier League goals this term.

The Togolese striker is understood to have a difficult relationship with Villas-Boas, having held two sets of crisis talks about his role in the team with his coach earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, Spurs are not interested in joining the race for highly rated Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who is a target for Manchester United and Arsenal.

Zaha has been heavily linked with a move away from Selhurst Park but the Championship club are deterring bidders by demanding £15m (€18m) for the teenager.