The path from Brazil to Europe is a well trodden one for many plying their trade in South America’s biggest nation. Such is the flow of global football economics – the price of success in a corner of the world where lifting a trophy can mean seeing the heart of your side ripped out, like a car stripped down and the better parts sold off.
It is a dilemma that Grêmio currently find themselves in following a 2017 to remember. The Porto Alegre based outfit won the Copa Libertadores – the South American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League – last term – and the inevitable has since happened.
Much talk has been made of forward Luan, who has been linked several times with a move to Liverpool without a deal ever actually coming to fruition, but it is midfield think-tank Arthur, the other key play in their continental success, who has secured a move to Europe with Catalan giants Barcelona.
Luan certainly received the majority of plaudits for the success Grêmio enjoyed last term, but the man who laid the platform for the forward line to thrive was Arthur. And while Luan remains at the club – for now at least – it is notable that Arthur is the one to have made the leap to elite-level European football.
Considered unfortunate by several to miss out on Tite’s Brazil World Cup squad, particularly given the fact that Fred failed to register a minute of competitive football in Russia, the 21-year-old has now been provided with one of the finest stages in club football to show just what he is capable of.
With Xavi and Andres Iniesta having moved on, it is perhaps tempting to make a comparison between the new Brazilian arrival and the Catalan idols. There are, of course, similarities between Arthur and two of the greatest midfielders of the modern era; he has shown, albeit in the admittedly slower tempo of South American football, that he has the vision to spot the gaps in an opposition technique and the ability to execute the defence splitting pass.
In short, it cannot be denied that the Brazilian’s cerebral presence in the heart of the midfield fits the DNA of the Catalan giants. The way he likes to play the game, the way he sees the game and the way he carries himself on the field should fit in succinctly with the path Johan Cruyff set the club on during his managerial spell over two decades ago.
In a country where the next big thing is seemingly ready to fall off the production line at a moment’s notice, Arthur still managed to stand out over the last 12 months. With Roger Machado initially struggling to find space for him, it was former fan favourite Renato Gaúcho’s arrival at the club which saw Arthur finally earn his chance to play regular first-team football – his calmness and assuredness on the ball were potent weapons in the high pressured environment of a Copa Libertadores run.
In terms of technical ability, Arthur would appear to be a perfect fit for the current La Liga champions. In many ways, he embodies all the characteristics of a first-rate, modern day midfielder.
While he is still young, his promise and potential are already clear. Besides vision and execution, he is capable of sitting and protecting a back line as well as controlling and keeping hold of the ball. In some aspects he is more Andrea Pirlo than Iniesta, sitting deep, waiting for a chance, spotting an opening and prising it open in an instant.
Understatement is a word that comes to mind when describing Arthur. It is a platitude which served him well during his time in Brazil and it should do so once again in La Liga.
At Barcelona, there is one very clear star – Lionel Messi. Add to that attacking trident the names of Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho and Arthur is unlikely to have the spotlight trained on him quite so incessantly as he may have elsewhere.
Much in the same way as he was able to quietly go about his business in the colours of Grêmio, the young Brazilian can serve his new side in a similarly subtle manner. Behind the stellar names comes a man capable of hurting from deep, almost unnoticed.
The likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Neymar have all pulled on the Barcelona shirt, all world-class attackers. Arthur brings something different to the table, and will arguably be the first Brazilian given the authority to dictate the tempo at Camp Nou.
Arthur has played over 600 minutes of league football for Grêmio this season and can boast a pass completion rate of 94.8 per cent. His ability to perform on the big stage has already been tried and tested in an ambience – the Libertadores – which many consider to be more ferocious than the relatively sanguine Champions League.
His playing attributes make him almost the perfect fit for a Barcelona side which, despite their domestic success last term, appeared to be lacking a certain balance in the middle of the park. With Paulinho returning to China following World Cup disappointment, the stage looks set for Brazil’s next midfield brain to show his top-rate credentials.
Fox Sports Brasil has already reported that Arthur has impressed his new teammates after his first training session, and early indications are that the new midfield recruit could be the glove over the Barcelona hand. Xavi and Iniesta are a pair that are as close to irreplaceable as you could every wish to see; Arthur, however, goes some way to bridging the gap between the past and the future.
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Also published on Medium.