Big Lang Theory: In praise of Leandro Damião



Those who frequent Premier League transfer rumour pages (you know who you are) will be well familiar with the name Leandro Damião. A striker who has gone from obscurity to the Brazil national team in little more than two years, he has attracted longing glances (and multi-million pound bids) from a number of clubs. Tottenham Hotspur, in particular, are known to be particularly enamoured.

Damião didn't follow the typical path into professional football. Having failed to impress in trials with professional clubs in São Paulo, Damião turned to the amateur game, eventually earning a chance with minnows Atlético de Ibirama in the state of Santa Catarina. It was there that he was spotted by scouts from Internacional, who took the youngster south to Porto Alegre. Although already physically developed, the forward was put on an intensive training regime by Inter to improve his technique, which had been neglected during to his unusual career trajectory.

Soon, Damião was knocking on the door of the first team. His first major statement of intent alerted a whole continent to his potential; he came off the bench to score a crucial goal in the Copa Libertadores final win over Chivas in 2010. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as a key player for Inter and as one of the deadliest forwards in the Campeonato Brasileiro.

Although perhaps best known for his strength and aerial ability, Damião is also a good technician. His ability to protect the ball with his back to goal has been a feature of Internacional's play over the last year, with the striker holding up play while the likes of Oscar, Dagoberto and Andrés D'Alessandro make bursts into the penalty box. His knack of finding the corners of the net has also seen him plunder plenty of goals in Brazil.

Fans in the UK got the chance to what all the fuss is about at close quarters last month, when the striker represented Brazil in the Olympic Games. Spearheading a dashing young seleção side, the 23-year-old enjoyed an excellent tournament, finishing as top scorer with six goals. At times, he bullied opposition defenders, brushing them aside with animal force and punishing them with his unfussy, clinical finishing.

He got up and running with goals against Egypt and New Zealand in the group stage, but really hit his stride in the quarter-final, netting a vital brace to prevent an embarrassing loss to Honduras. His best display, though, came against South Korea in the semi-final. With Brazil leading an even contest through Rômulo's goal, Damião took control, scoring twice to put the game to bed. The second goal, an intuitive poke when the ball appeared to be stuck under his feet, was particularly stunning, underlining the "whatever works" adaptability behind Damião's play.

It seems unlikely that we've seen the last of Damião on these shores. While Brazilian attackers haven't always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the English game, Damião is cut from a different cloth than many of his countrymen. His robust style would seem to make him a perfect fit for, say, Spurs, who have already had offers of £12 and £18 million turned down by Internacional. While those are lofty figures, it is understandable that Inter wish to cash in fully on one of their prize assets. The departure of Oscar to Chelsea is likely only to have strengthened their resolve; the Porto Alegre will be loath to sell their two best players with the space of two months, and they hardly need the money.

If André Villas-Boas really wants to add Damião to his squad, then, he'll need the full backing of the Tottenham accountants. But even £25 million would represent decent value, given the striker's quality and potential for further development. It's not often you get the chance to sign Brazil's first choice striker, after all.