When January comes, despite how the season is going, a player will return to Inter very much under the radar. Who would be surprised that Gabriel Barbosa’s return from Santos would not be met with fanfare, especially after his last dismal spell in Milan?
With Mauro Icardi and the new Argentine, Lautaro Martínez, being an incredibly mouth-watering potential duo, one could argue Barbosa has no place in the team, but on the other side of the coin, the Nerazzurri may end up with one of the most potent forward lines in world football.
At the start of the 2017/18 campaign, Barbosa was loaned to Benfica following a poor start to his career in Milan. So much was expected of the young Brazilian who, with Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, had been seen as the perfect accompaniment to Neymar in Brazil’s future attacking line-up.
However, following rumours of a poor attitude in training and an unprofessional off-field attitude, he fell out of favour.
In the 2016/17 season, Barbosa amassed nine substitute appearances, a total of 113 minutes and a solitary goal. Inter fans wanted more.
However, they did not get their wish and, following a fruitless loan stint at Benfica, Barbosa joined his boyhood club Santos.
Thankfully, his form has improved and in 11 appearances so far with Santos he has amassed four goals and an assist whilst having a better passing average than both Icardi and Martínez in this time (albeit he has played less).
It does seem, however, that he has recaptured his form and matured in his time back in Brazil. He is still only 21 and has a long career ahead of him.
His return to Brazil has seemingly rekindled a desire to succeed at Inter so there remains hope that he can flourish in Serie A.
If the Brazilian does walk back onto the Appiano Gentile training ground in January, then Inter will have a healthy array of goalscorers.
Icardi shouldered the responsibility again last term, netting an incredible 29 goals in 34 appearances. The Argentinian hitman’s form was impressive but it failed to mask the lack of goals throughout the Inter team.
However, the Nerazzurri hope that the arrival of Martínez from Argentine outfit Racing Club will ease some of the pressure on Icardi.
Last season, he netted 13 times in 20 games and provided 4 assists, but it was the manner of the goals that impressed many. He has good movement, can link up well with his teammates and his finishing is emphatic. In some ways, he resembles Icardi and his characteristics could suit Inter well.
His skillset should perhaps come as no surprise considering that he was mentored by Milito at Racing.
As next season slowly comes into view, there is a chance that Inter will not only have Icardi and Martínez already working in tandem but could then also add Barbosa to the mix. The fact that Gabigol can play wide (as Martínez arguably can) could lead to the Nerazzurri having a South American trident boasting devastating pace, movement and finishing.
They may have stumbled on this trio but with Icardi (25) Martínez (20) and Barbosa (21) it’s a partnership that can potentially blossom over a number of years.
There is still a long way to go before this happens of course. Will Inter be able to resist offers for Icardi? Will Martínez settle in Milan and will Gabigol ever fulfill his undoubted potential?
It’s too early to say but should the stars align, then San Siro could become of the most feared grounds not just in Italy but in Europe.