Spurs fan’s view: Would a �12m gamble on Damiao pay off?
As Tottenham close in on Leandro Damiao, Spurs fan Daniel Grigg runs the rule over the Brazil striker.
The deal is yet to be done but there are questions to consider before asking ‘have Spurs got their man?’ – questions that Tottenham’s hierarchy have no doubt asked themselves before making their move, like ‘is this a valid investment of �12million?’
If anyone believes that 21-year-old Brazilian forward Leandro Damiao is the finished article, they may be in for a rude awakening.
However, he could be the perfect striker for Spurs’ style of football, providing proof that Harry Redknapp understands exactly what is needed to fit players like Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric (hopefully!) into a successful formation next season.
Firstly - and this always has to be the first consideration when signing players from abroad - the Internacional striker appears to have both the physical strength and the sharpness in possession to survive and perform in English football.
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However, despite his burgeoning reputation and a couple of caps for the Brazilian national team, it remains a worry that he is yet to really stand out – especially for a player who is valued in excess of �10m.
In Damiao’s favour, though, he’s already proven himself to be an incredibly fast learner. He was barely even out of Inter’s reserve team when Tottenham went after Sandro, and that was just over a year ago – they may have been team-mates, but there wouldn’t be a great telepathic understanding between the two young Brazilians!
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Expectations should be raised by Damiao’s enviable combination of acceleration off the ball and his impressive composure once he is in possession of it near the goal.
That sort of talent is useful for any striker, but particularly one at a club like Spurs, who have pacemen like Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the wings, putting in low balls across the edge of the six-yard box.
On the other hand, what Damiao sometimes lacks at this stage in his career is that ability that Michael Owen used to have, to find himself in the right position more often than not.
Fans who have been frustrated with Roman Pavlyuchenko’s frequent failure to get into the best positions when crosses are delivered may develop a similar gripe with Damiao if he does indeed join the Lilywhites, although he is still learning his trade.
Unlike some Brazilian strikers, Damiao’s work-rate is an asset and not a limitation. He is the sort of striker who keeps making runs even late on in matches to try to make things happen. At 6ft 1in, he is also a good height and would offer something of a threat in the air.
He holds the ball up well and can pick out a pass to a team-mate, although he is by no means anything like as good as Dimitar Berbatov in that regard.
While not the kind of Brazilian striker who is going to dribble with sublime skill past numerous defenders, he gets the ball out of his feet and can find that half a yard needed to get a clear shot on goal, like Jermain Defoe.
The fear, though, is that Damiao could just become a Brazilian version of Roman Pavlyuchenko - a talent, a decent goalscorer, but ultimately a bit of a waste of an eight-figure transfer fee, who isn’t going to solve Spurs’ striker problems.
Assuming for a second that he is good enough for the Premier League – and a team with top-four ambitions at that - and that Spurs have no problems tying up the deal, we have seen from experience with Sandro that even the most talented of signings from the Brazilian league need time to adapt and express themselves in England.
If Redknapp is required to get Tottenham back into the Champions League next season, there are many other strikers who are more likely to hit the ground running right from the first match – which has become all the more essential since Spurs have been pitted against Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City in their first three games of the season.
Ultimately, Damiao could either be the perfect striker for Spurs or he could really struggle to assert himself in the Premier League.
However, Manchester United’s acquisition of Javier Hernandez has reminded us that natural finishers from South or Central America can go straight into the Premier League and still perform brilliantly, without needing to prove themselves elsewhere in Europe beforehand.
Everyone is hunting for ‘the next Hernandez’ this summer, and if Damiao turned out to be that man, then �12m will seem like an absolute bargain. Here’s hoping…