Gustavo Maia: 5 Things to Know About the Young Brazilian Star & Barcelona's New Recruit

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Sao Paulo youngster Gustavo Maia has quickly emerged as one of Brazil’s brightest young talents, but you would be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of him.

The 19-year-old is actually yet to make a first-team appearance for the Brazilian side, but this has not stopped numerous sides across the world from showing an interest in him.

Barcelona, however, have seemingly ​won the race for his signature as it was recently revealed that they had already paid an initial fee of just under £1m to secure majority ownership of the youngster, but a further £3m will be paid in add ons to confirm the deal.

So with this, we’ve decided to run through five key things to know about the rising star…


Style of Play?

Maia may be young, but he plays with a maturity well beyond his years.

The 19-year-old can operate as a left-winger or he can also play up front, either with another partner or as the sole striker. It is this versatility that enables him to play with such confidence in all areas of the pitch.

Even when Maia is operating as the striker, he typically tends to drift out into wider spaces, while he also has the awareness to drop deep in order to connect with his teammates and link-up play. He has the technical ability to either play intricate one-twos with another player, or to ping a cross-field pass right into the feet of a teammate. 

Equally, Maia can taunt defenders with the ball at his feet (a Brazilian who can dribble…?!). His quick feet and change of pace makes him unplayable at points. 


Physique

As alluded to above, he’s fast, he’s got a fantastic range of passing and he loves to have a go at goal – but this isn’t to say he doesn’t have flaws in his game. 

Maia is just 167cm tall (that is 5’4 or if he wishes to round up then 5’5), while he is also weighs just 59kg. Of course, there are countless professional footballers who aren’t exactly tall, and it does mean they have a low centre of gravity – allowing them to twist and turn in the blink of an eye. 

But over time, Barcelona will be looking to build Maia’s strength up. At youth level, Maia has been shrugged off the ball, but fortunately for him, his side haven’t been punished the majority of the time. 

Make no mistake about it, Maia is a gifted footballer and his height allows him to create some of the magical moments he has done in his short career to date, but he must now look to improve his physicality in order to make himself a more complete footballer. 


What Are His Stats Like?

When a club signs – or is closing in on – a new player, fans are always keen to know their new recruit’s stats. 

Well, due to Maia’s recent displays, he was in line to make his first appearance for the senior side, but the coronavirus pandemic caused football to be halted.

At youth level, the teenager has excelled. He has played 102 matches in the colours of Sao Paulo, progressing through the age groups. In 2016, Maia bagged eight goals in 20 appearances for the Under-15s, but it was around 2018 when teams really began to sit up and take notice of the young starlet.

Why? Well, in his 36 games that year, he bagged 30 goals and a handful of assists to go with that for the Under-17 side. 

In 2019, for the Under-20s, Maia bagged eight goals in 28 appearances in the Brasileiro U20 and the Paulista U20 competitions. Sure, he may not have been exactly prolific, but because of his talent, he was called up to this squad despite being able to play in the age category below. Moreover, 23 of these 28 appearances came as a substitute, underlining his ability to impact games. 


Youth Tournament 

Maia’s performances at the Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores recently have seen him garner even more praise. Yes, he went on to score three goals during the tournament and was a key player in helping Sao Paulo’s youngsters reach the quarter-finals, but he actually started out on the bench. 

In fact, he came on as a substitute in each of their first three games. In the opening game of the competition, he was brought on after just 20 minutes and while he wasn’t able to help his side find a winner, he was constantly picking up clever positions and was looking to create opportunities. 

He started on the bench once again for the next game, but came on at half time to score. Finally he was rewarded with a starting berth in the fourth game of the tournament and, of course, he delivered, grabbing a goal. 

But it was the clash with Santa Cruz in the round of 16 stage that saw Maia play one of the passes of the tournament. Dropping deep, he picked up the ball and played a piercing pass through the heart of the defence, allowing a teammate to run onto the ball and cut it back for a player to score. A moment of quality to put his side in control. 

And to cap off a supreme set of displays at the tournament, Maia scored a stunning half-volley from the edge of the area in the quarter-finals. These performances didn’t go unnoticed as he was quickly called up to the senior squad, where he occupied a space on the bench for the clash with Botafogo.


Plenty of Interest

​Barcelona have already signed youngster Francisco Trincao, who will join up with his new club in the summer. La Blaugrana have now seemingly won the race for Maia, but he is expected to join up with Barcelona B in order to ease him into life at the club.  

But Barça needed to move quickly in order to put themselves at the front of the queue for this talented youngster as other top sides were also keen. 

He has ​been on the radar of scouts in Spain for around two years now, while a number of Premier League clubs were also said to be keeping tabs on him. Maia has the potential to become a world class talent, it’s no wonder why he is so highly regarded in Brazil. 


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