For the second in my series of player profiles I will be casting my eye over another talented young attacker by the name of Gustavo Scarpa.
Scarpa, a left-footed attacking midfielder currently wears the red, white and green of Rio giants Fluminense, one of the most storied clubs in Brazil. His recent performances have, however, been drawing the attention of various European teams and there is a strong possibility that the Flu faithful will not have the pleasure of watching him don their shirt for much longer.
In June of this year it was reported that his current club’s directors received an offer of six million Euros from Benfica for the 22-year-old. Portuguese football is often used as a stepping stone into the European game by Brazilian players as the lack of a language barrier aids their adaptation, so such a move would seem sensible.
On being questioned about the possibility of leaving o Tricolor Carioca Scarpa responded “I don’t worry about the transfer… I’m 22 and I’m a dreamer, I have a lot of life left to live. [Playing in Europe] is a dream that I have but I don’t worry about it. If it will happen now, or years from now, I don’t mind.”
Born in Campinas, a smallish city in the São Paulo interior, he was introduced to the beautiful game by his father, a keen amateur football coach. Throughout his formative years he spent much of his time playing futsal, the indoor small-sided game so popular in Brazil, that has produced flawless technicians like Robinho, Ronaldinho and even Pelé himself.
And it is with this style that he plays. Full of tricks, turns and quick changes of pace his is perfectly capable of flicking the ball over an opponent’s head or putting it through their legs. It is not for this, though, that he is most renowned. His fierce shot and ability to curl a free-kick into the top-corner of the net is what really sets him apart.
He started his career with Desportivo Brasil, a club based in São Paulo that was set up in 2005 with the specific aim of nurturing young talent for potential future profit. At 18 he moved to Fluminense where he competed with the U-20 team for the first two years of his stay.
He was slowly introduced to the first XI, making a few substitute appearances in the 2014 Brazilian league campaign and setting up a goal in a pre-World Cup friendly with the Italian national team.
Scarpa was subsequently loaned out to Red Bull Brasil in his native Campinas for the 2015 Campeonato Paulista. There he was one of the stars of a young team, scoring a couple of spectacular goals during his stay at the energy drink sponsored side.
For the 2015 Brazilian league season he returned to Rio and Fluminense where he gradually started to impose himself on the first team. He scored his first goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Cruzeiro in July. Shortly after this his scored his finest goal to date in an encounter with Goiás in the Maracanã, flicking the ball over the head of the defender before smashing it on the volley into the angle of bar and post with his weaker right foot.
In his first real season of first team football he achieved an average WhoScored? rating of 6.97 in the league, scoring five goals and making two assists in 24 starts, with a further four appearances from the bench. His preferred position is behind the striker though he is equally capable playing from the left or from the right. On a few occasions in 2015 he was even used as a makeshift left-back.
Gustavo is now undisputed first choice for the team and this year his productivity has gone up several levels. Fluminense took part in both the Campeonato Carioca and the Primeira Liga over the first few months of the year and Scarpa made the team of the tournament in the state championship and was awarded player of the tournament in the latter competition.
In the two championships combined he scored four times and notched up six assists in just 19 games, leading Fluminense to the title in the inaugural edition of the Primeira Liga.
He has continued his form into the national league campaign and has made himself the standout player of a side fighting for a place in the newly expanded Copa Libertadores.
At the time of writing Scarpa has eight goals and seven assists in 26 games in the league and a further two goals and three assists in seven cup games. This brings his total for the year to 14 goals and 16 assists in 51 games, impressive by anyone’s standards. He is also the player in the league who has created the most chances, with 80 opportunities laid on for his team mates.
This increase in end product has led to a highly improved WhoScored average rating of 7.35, the joint-fifth best score of any player in the league.
The fact that 3 of his average 3.5 shots per game come from outside the penalty area show how confident he is in his ability to score from range. The confidence is not misplaced either as five of the eight he has scored in the league have come from outside the 18-yard box, 3 of those being direct free-kicks.
As well as the ability to put the ball in the net straight from a set-piece he has the capacity to put in dangerous crosses for his team-mates to finish both from dead-balls and open play. When played as a left winger his aerial delivery is especially dangerous, whereas on the right wing he tends to cut inside and is more apt at playing through balls on the ground.
His performances this year were enough to earn him a call into Rogério Micale’s initial 35-man squad for the Olympics, however owing to the array of attacking talent at Micale’s disposal he was omitted from the final 18-man list. By all accounts though he would have been the first port of call in case of an injury.
One thing that might put off some potential suitors is his build; he is extremely slight. This should not present too much of a problem though if he can continue finding space and accelerating away from players in the way he does in Brazil.
It looks like Fluminense will qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores so they will be desperate to hold on to the player to give themselves the best possible chance in that tournament. It may also be a good idea for Scarpa to say and collect some experience in international club competition before any move overseas.
It will probably take more than the €6 million offered by Benfica to prise him from the grasp of the Rio club but anything around €10 million would appear a good investment given his return so far this season. If he can continue the progress he has made over the last 12 months the sky is the limit for Scarpa and it would not be too much of a surprise to see him pulling on the canary yellow of the Seleção at some point in the not-too-distant future.