Danilo is Nottingham Forest’s 24th signing since promotion – and might be the most exciting

“You pay for quality.”

Abel Ferreira should know quality when he sees it.

He was the manager of Palmeiras for one of the most successful seasons in their history, winning the Copa Libertadores in consecutive years, with the national Serie A title and two Campeonatos Paulista victories thrown in.

So when you mourn the departure of Danilo, a 21-year-old who has been at the heart of the team in Sao Paulo for the past two years, as he did this weekend, it is a valid indication that a special player might. has arrived at Nottingham Forest.

And all this might not have happened if Danilo had followed his dreams when he was 15 years old.

He has been at Bahia, a Brazilian football club that is part of the National Football League, since the age of seven, but as was the case with many promising young players in those days, he was released as a teenager.

Sadly, Danilo decided to quit football, professionally at least.

He comes from a poor family – when he was young, his father had to take out a loan to pay for his education costs. That’s a lot of pressure. Maybe this isn’t for him, maybe he’s not good enough, maybe it’s not worth the effort.

Fortunately for him, Palmeiras and now Forest, he was convinced to stay on, at least in part by an old family friend, Dego Freitas, football coach and local organizer who runs a body called ‘Os Deguinhos da Bola ‘. That project uses football to help vulnerable and at-risk youth through football, and it has a team that Danilo sometimes plays with when he’s not in Bahia.

“I told him it was his family’s dream, my dream, that he could help his family with football,” Freitas said. Athletes.

After a while, Freitas used his connections to get Danilo a trial with Cajazeiras, then a Serie B team, and it was when he was happy for them that he caught the eye of Palmeiras, joining their under-17s team.

Freitas said: “No one in Bahia knew how to recognize his gift, but thankfully the God of Palmeiras (1,000 kilometers to the south) saw the child’s potential. You have to leave the state to achieve your dream. “

This is in 2018. Within two years, Danilo is a regular in their first team, and in the 2020 Copa Libertadores final season that is around, he is a key player for the defending South American champions.

It was partly thanks to Danilo’s direct (more on that soon) Palmeiras scored the winner in the eighth minute of the second half of stoppage time against the Brazilians Santos that day: it sounded long, almost a Hail Mary pass from deep Rony, who crossed for Breno Lopes to head home.

Often in these stories there is a moment, a realization from the player that they have to work harder or improve their behavior to succeed. But with Danilo this does not seem to be the case: his rapid rise from the Bahia scrapheap to the continental champion appears to be explained by the combination of a player who was a little later producer and a manager who saw something in him that maybe others. miss.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo, former Brazilian national team and manager of Real Madrid, and coach of Palmeiras in the autumn of 2020, needs some help in the midfield due to many injuries. He was watching a game under 20 years old, and he saw a quality in the tall kid running in the middle of his favorite park.

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“I saw a left-footed player, a good player who took (the ball) here, took it there,” Luxemburgo said last year, “and there was another thing that caught my attention at the time: he didn’t pass to side or back, he’s just forward. He’ll get the ball and just take it forward.”

Simple game, isn’t it? That was enough for Luxemburgo, who put Danilo straight into the senior team, and he didn’t leave, quickly establishing himself as one of their key players, even though he was still only 21 years old. “He’s the heart of the group,” Francisco said. de Laurentiis, who covers Palmeiras for ESPN Brazil. “He’s a player who doesn’t feel.”

His importance to Palmeiras was highlighted on many occasions, but perhaps none more so than in the Paulista two-legged final against Sao Paulo last year. Danilo was injured for the first leg, and in the words of De Laurentiis, Palmeiras looked “lost” on their way to a 3-1 defeat. He returned for the second leg, opened the scoring, all things captain and his team won 4-0. “It was perfect from start to finish,” De Laurentiis said.

It was that kind of form that earned him a call-up to Brazil’s squad just before the recent World Cup, which he greeted in a time-honored style that he thought was a wind-up. “I was sleeping, then (Palmeiras teammate) Gabriel Menino called me. I even thought he was joking,” he said. It will fit perfectly with the English dressing room.

Danilo stood out when Palmeiras faced Chelsea in the Club World Cup final last February, where he came up against the men who said he modeled his game on the most closely. “(N’Golo) Kante is a different player because of what he does on the field: he will run, get the ball and return, he never gets tired,” he said. “He is one of the players I look up to the most at Chelsea and the one who inspires me the most.”

He certainly has Kante’s weakness. Observers talk about him being everywhere, and Freitas remembers a game when Danilo was only 13 years old: “It ended in a draw, and it went to extra time.” Danilo played well, he had two assists in extra time and his father wanted me to take him off because he was too tired. But he didn’t want to. When it was finished Danilo had to leave the field with help, because he did not have the strength to walk.”

Other observers compared him – in style, if not in quality yet – to Blaise Matuidi, or even Jude Bellingham, the combination of body (Danilo is around 6ft 2in – or 188cm – tall), dynamism and technique your reflection. On the Total Soccer Show this week, Brazilian soccer expert Natalie Gedra compared him to Rodri, but faster.

All those comparisons are probably unfair, especially when he has many qualities that he shows himself.

The positive attitude that Luxemburgo points to is an aspect of his game that comes up often when he talks to people about Danilo. Of course he is will pass to the side or back when that is a sensible choice, but his instinct is always to play forward – short or long, to advance the ball up as quickly as possible.

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Take this example from a game at the back end of last season.

International’s Fabricio Bustos grabbed a ball forward from the touchline, and Danilo moved back into his own half to block, under pressure from Estevao.

Danilo has three teammates – Luan, Mayke and Murilo – available for backward access, from which they can easily distribute the ball and build an attack. So, careful, maybe even the sensible thing to do would be for Danilo to find one of those three, but instead…

… he intercepts, spins around and flicks the ball forward in one motion, before passing it to Jose Manuel Lopez, who continues the attack.

It’s simple, not a particularly dramatic example, but one that describes the choices Danilo is making.

This may be an indication of why Igbo is keen on him.

They have looked the most dangerous on the counter-attack in recent weeks, with the two goals scored against Leicester on Saturday a perfect example. That requires moving the ball upfield as quickly as possible, without kicking it, so having someone with a good crossing ability in your midfield is a logical design.

It will be interesting to see exactly where it fits.

At Palmeiras, Danilo played a lot as one of the two benches in a 4-2-3-1 – interestingly mainly on the right, although he is left-footed – but Steve Cooper’s side have thrived with a midfield three. In theory, his most natural position would be as the deepest of midfielders, in the middle, but Remo Freuler has settled into a good rhythm in the role.

Danilo certainly has the ability to operate as one of the more advanced pair either side of Freuler, so that would seem the most likely place he would come in, fitting in well with Ryan Yates’ every move to the right.

The Brazilian is a threat going forward, if not always directly. He didn’t register many assists, and shooting from outside the box needed a lot of work. But he stopped to play before the help, and in many cases back home he played against Gustavo Scarpa, who will also be his teammate in Nottingham. Their understanding will be a key factor in his integration, off the pitch and on it: the two are good friends, and Scarpa welcomed his friend to England with an Instagram post of snow falling on the East Midlands.

While not important, Danilo’s goal record is improving: he scored seven times last season, five of which came from corners, either from headers or by generally using his body to wreak havoc of yourself and you are in the right place, at the right time. All those corners, it should be noted, Scarpa took.

He’s also a very clever salesman, as you can see from the clip below.

Select this one. Play for and receive. Whether.

“He scores, he’s in the zone, he helps with the marking. He is the perfect player in Brazilian football,” said Danilo’s Palmeiras teammate Dudu before the Club World Cup 11 months ago.

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“He is a star, he has to play in the Premier League. I always told him, ‘You have to play at Manchester United, or Arsenal’. He had to be quiet, he was a kid who gave his all, but I told him, ‘You are a player for Chelsea, those kinds of clubs’.

This, perhaps counter-intuitively, is where the alarm bells can start to ring a little for the fans in the City Ground: if people think you should play for clubs at that level, why join the forest? The short answer is: they came up with the money, quickly, while everyone else had other priorities.

Chelsea, Monaco and Arsenal were all interested, the latter last summer. But on that occasion, Palmeiras was in the middle of their domestic season and could not even think about selling their star man.

Instead, they promised Danilo’s agent that should an offer of €20million (£17.7m) arrive when the season ends in November, he would be allowed to leave. Igbo put their money on the table, and pulled off quite a coup.

If it all sounds too good to be true, there are some caveats.

Most notably, he is only 21 years old and has never played outside of Brazil. He will take time to get used to the speed of the Premier League. “He likes to get the ball, find the best passing option and play,” said De Laurentiis. “In England, you have to get the ball, and play.”

On a more basic level, Brazil’s season ends a week before the World Cup starts, so it hasn’t played competitive football for over two months. He’ll need what amounts to pre-season before it’s anything like a rush.

Additionally, the numbers don’t paint a bright picture.

The Smarterscout chart above indicates that his stats are basically average in all areas, when adjusted for the Premier League standard. In terms of his progression (defined as moves of 10-plus meters upfield) he is almost average for a defensive midfielder. He is also among the pack in his defensive measure (ball recoveries and disrupting opposition moves) and his defensive role (preventing oppositions from advancing).

But the chart also tells us that he is pretty well-rounded in his actions (again by combining playing short, strong moves to a nearby teammate – link game volume), including handling the ball (move and dribble volume). In terms of statistics, nothing remains important, which can change one of two ways: either it is important in nothing, or it is good in more or less everything.

Danilo is Forest’s 24th senior signing since winning promotion in June.

While some of those have proven to be inspired recruits, and there are enough hints to inspire some caution about this young Brazilian, there is a case to make him the most exciting of all. they.

“He was born to shine and win everything in Brazil,” said Freitas. “Now it’s time to win in Europe.”

(Top photo: Ricardo Moreira/Getty Images)

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