'Everyone wants to play for Liverpool' – Gabigol wants to link up with 'inspiration' Firmino
The 23-year-old Brazil forward is one of world football’s most in-demand strikers after a stunning two-year spell with Santos and Flamengo
Flamengo and Brazil striker Gabriel Barbosa says he would love to play in the Premier League – preferably alongside Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.
The 23-year-old, known as ‘Gabigol’, recovered from a difficult first foray into European football with Inter and Benfica to score 34 goals in 40 club games this season, winning a Brazilian Serie A and Copa Libertadores double.
Still owned by Inter, Gabigol is unlikely to return to Flamengo once his loan deal expires at the end of the year – and it seems he has his sights set on Anfield, and a link-up with a forward he greatly respects.
“Firmino is great, I really admire him,” he told the Sun. “He’s been successful for many years in Europe.
“He is a powerful forward and he has been great for Brazil. He is an inspiration that I look up to.
“It would be a pleasure to play with him. Maybe we could team up for Brazil in the future and Liverpool is a team that everyone wants to play for.”
Flamengo are currently gearing up for the Club World Cup, where they could face Champions League winners Liverpool.
The last six editions of the tournament have been won by the reigning European champions, with half of those finals played against the Libertadores winners.
“It’s hard to talk about this at the moment,” Barbosa added. “My focus is totally on the Club World Cup.
“I like the Premier League very much. It combines technique, strength and speed. I always follow the games from Brazil.
“It really is a place I would like to play. It’s one of the best leagues in the world. Every player dreams of being a champion and winning the Premier League must be indescribable.
“But I still have a contract with Inter and Flamengo until the end of 2019.”
After joining Inter from former club Santos, touted as the next big thing out of Brazilian football in 2016, he managed just one league goal in his first season and none when he was sent out on loan to Benfica the following year.
Now, with two stunning seasons and an international recall under his belt, he believes he is a better player – and one more ready to make the leap from South America to Europe.
“These are different times,” he said. “When I went to Europe I was young and had many things to learn.
“Now I find myself much more experienced and mature, living the best phase of my life – 2019 has been a magical year. I feel like a new player.
“Europe is a natural place for all players who stand out in Brazil but things didn’t go the way I imagined on my first trip.
“Adaptation is never easy, despite being with my family there. It’s a new culture, a new country, a new way of playing. All this, whether you like it or not, ends up messing with you.
“But I do not regret going. I never bowed my head in the face of difficulties and always tried to work the best way possible because I trust my potential and know how much I can learn and improve.”