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Player Profile: Who is Chelsea-linked midfielder Gabriel Menino?

Chelsea are reportedly interested in a move for 20-year-old Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Menino this summer, currently at Palmeiras, according to reports in Spain.

Juventus and Atletico Madrid are also allegedly monitoring the player, who is capable at right-back, and whose contract contains a €60 million release clause, although Palmeiras would accept an offer around the €20 million mark.

Fabrizio Romano confirmed this interest in the Here We Go podcast, saying: "Yes, a new name for European football, for Chelsea and other clubs that are looking at him. We are talking about scouting, so no negotiation at the moment."

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Menino represents an interesting, versatile profile - capable in a number of positions, and able to bolster Chelsea’s squad depth in both midfield and the full-back role. It should come as no surprise the youngster has been linked with a range of elite European clubs after some fine performances in recent months.

Menino progressed through the Palmeiras academy after joining in 2017, which also produced Man City’s Gabriel Jesus, and acted as a stepping stone for Brazilian legends Roberto Carlos, Cafu and Rivaldo.

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After winning the Copa do Brasil Sub-17 in 2017, Menino was promoted to the senior side ahead of the 2019/20 campaign. Across all competitions, Menino featured in 54 games, including missing just one game in the Copa Libertadores as Palmeiras beat rivals Santos in the final.

Perhaps more impressively, Menino was deployed in a huge number of different roles across the season. This included in three different midfield positions, from a defensive to attacking role, as well as at right-back, right-midfield, right-wing, and once at left-midfield (the larger the circle, the more games in each position):

Source: TransferMarkt

Source: TransferMarkt

This versatility and adaptability is also evident in Menino’s heat map for the season. As you can see, he is most active on the right side of the pitch, although he also influences the game in central areas, primarily in the defensive third:

Source: SofaScore

Source: SofaScore

Menino impressed with his high work-rate, pace, intensity and energy - prolific in winning the ball back across the midfield, and launching attacks for his teammates. Menino combines this with flair on the ball - at 5’9 his diminutive frame enables him to shield the ball when dribbling to good effect, and draw in opponents to create space for his teammates.

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Menino also has a great cross on him - often sweeping perfectly heighted balls into the box from the right-wing for oncoming attackers. He is trusted as Palmeiras’ corner taker, and his 0.28 assists per 90 is 9th in the Serie A1 for this season.

Moving into the 2020/21 campaign, Menino has only missed 10 minutes in the opening four Serie A1 games as Palmeiras sit top of Group C, having won two and drawn two. 

Menino’s SofaScore rating has increased from 6.94 to 7.05, and his versatility continues to be one of his most important attributes. Menino has featured at both defensive and attacking midfield, at right-back and right-wing, and also once on the left.

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Aged just 20, Menino’s long-term future appears to be at right-back. According to The Athletic, Brazil coach Tite, who called Menino up to the senior side in September last year, although he is yet to make his senior debut, envisages the player as the Selecao’s Dani Alves successor.

"They play in the same area and have similar attacking functions. Obviously, in the defensive phase, he will slot into a back four … He will articulate the play. Menino is a midfielder full-back. He has the experience and training for that role. It’s not just my imagination."

This positional readjustment can be seen in Menino’s heat map for the 2020/21 season - far more concentrated on the right wing, as opposed to a spread across the right and midfield:

Credit: SofaScore

Credit: SofaScore

In terms of player comparison, Menino has been compared to Yaya Toure as well as Dani Alves, although Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich appears to be the closest resemblance, also a midfielder/right-back hybrid.

Menino averaged 1.3 crosses per 90 last season, compared to 1.4 for Kimmich in 2018/19. The two player’s statistics were also very similar for progressive runs per 90 (2.7 for Menino, 3.0 for Kimmich), dribbles completed per 90 (4.2 for Menino, 3.9 for Kimmich), successful ‘defensive actions’ per 90 (8.0 for Menino, 8.2 for Kimmich) and successful ‘attacking actions’ per 90 (5.2 for Menino, 5.3 for Kimmich).

How would Menino fit into a Chelsea side? With the Blues linked to defensive midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Lucas Gourtha-Douath in recent weeks, it is clear the club are in the market for a young, defensive-minded midfielder this summer.

However, with veteran Cesar Azpilicueta’s contract set to expire next summer, Menino could provide the perfect cover for both N’Golo Kante and Reece James, able to alternate between both roles as Chelsea aim to compete in various competitions again next summer.

Only time will tell if Chelsea formalise a move for Menino this summer, although it is surely a matter of when, not if, he makes the step-up to the highest level of European football in the future. 


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