Gabriel Moscardo – The Future of Brazil’s Midfield by Vuyo Ndebele
Name: Gabriel Moscardo
Preferred foot: Right
Main Strengths: heading, tackling, concentration, decision making & work rate.
Although Corinthians are the third most successful club in Brazil’s Serie A history with seven league titles, behind only Palmeiras (11) and Santos (8), they have struggled of late to close that gap, with their last title coming in 2017 and a highest finish of fourth since (2022). As it goes more often than not when teams struggle, clubs and coaches alike often look for solutions elsewhere, with most opting to spend in the transfer market. However, given the financial constraints of clubs in the Americas compared to those in Europe, the next best option would be to promote the most promising talent from the clubs academy.
That’s exactly what O Timao have done in the last couple of seasons, with the three most promising ones in the last 18 months or so being wingers, Wesley (18) and Biro (19) as well as centre back, Robert Renan (19), who recently moved to Zenit St. Petersburg. The latter are both members of Brazil’s star studded U20 National Team. The exciting news for the Corinthians’ faithful is that there’s yet another gem grasping the chances handed to him with both hands, the worrying part however is that just how long will they be able to fend off interest from the world’s best should his fine form continue. Enter Gabriel Moscardo.
Born on September 28th 2005 in Taubaté, São Paulo, Moscardo joined the clubs youth setup as a 12 year old and has subsequently made vast progress through the ranks to now at only 17 find himself as potentially one of the brightest stars in the clubs recent history. The youngster has been nothing short of commanding in the last couple of months for the clubs first team, consistently showcasing his fantastic ball-carrying ability, high defensive IQ, and satisfactory passing range at this level.
He made his debut vs Liverpool Montevideo in the Copa Libertadores, coming on in the 79th minute as Corinthians came out 3-0 victors on the night (28 June 2023). Moscardo has since made 8 appearances in the Serie A, 2 in the Copa Libertadores, Brazil – Cup and Copa Sudamericana respectively. The natural born leader was also not so long ago rewarded with a call up to The Seleção’s preliminary U23 squad set to compete at next year’s Olympics. A testament to the strides he has taken in such a short space of time.
Predominantly a central midfielder, Gabriel has been deployed in either a single or double pivot in a more conservative capacity (in terms of his attacking duties) alongside veteran Giuliano by manager Vanderlei Luxembourgo. He’s currently averaging just under 47 touches per 90, which goes to show how involved he is in Corinthians’ build up. Moscardo’s pass completion rate is equally impressive at 83% (26.8 per game), although most of which have been in his own half; his progressive passing is slowly improving. As he gains more experience and confidence, he will certainly improve in the latter aspect by taking more risks.
Understandably he doesn’t offer an immense direct goal threat given his deep lying role but with a proclivity to link up play well and even switch the point of attack in a single pass, as he can play accurate long/through balls at a fairly high rate thanks in large part to his measurable range. The importance of being able to control and dictate play from deep in midfield should not be understated in todays game. This allows the attacking players to receive the ball higher up the pitch and influence the attack closer to goal. Not only that, having a deep threat creates more space for the team in possession as the opposition is forced to commit at least a player to stop them from creating better opportunities as they progress further down the pitch.
However, perhaps the best way Gabriel influences matches going forward is by using his ball carrying expertise. This has always been a staple in his game, especially in bringing the ball up in space. His frame enables him to shield players off when pressured, using long strides to create separation between him and his marker. Off the ball, it’s common for him to make third man runs, which opponents can rarely pick up. These smart movements add versatility to his game and allow him to be a good box-to-box player, which brings similar advantages that his ball carrying from deep does.
Gabriel can also beat players off the dribble (1.4 per 90 at a success rate of 63%) if there is space either behind or laterally, smartly picking his moment to knock the ball into said areas, leveraging his physical superiority to keep the ball although at times in close quarters, he tends to lose the ball. This is most likely due to his height and build, which is normal at that age, seeing to the fact that he’s still growing into his body. Shifting the ball to his other foot is his usual go-to move to try and wriggle out of pressure, but defenders at the professional level are quick to read that. Enhancing his ball control in tight spaces and the addition of feints to his dribbling repertoire would make Moscardo an almost unstoppable ball carrier because he would be a threat in both short and long distances.
On the defensive side of things, the teenager does extremely well to regain possession for his team owing to his combative style which has seen him develop a knack of routinely winning duels, with 4.4 on the ground and 71% aerially (both per 90). A priceless trait for any midfielder operating deeper. When pushed higher into the number 8 role you can see the intensity, timing, and technique in his pressing clearly, highlighting his positional versatility. Operating as a 6, he isn’t required to do it constantly hence why his pressing numbers are low and his aptitude in this regard might be underrated.
Furthermore, he uses his physical edge greatly to influence the opposition’s next action. The midfielder is aggressive and can bully players off the ball or use his length to either step in for a last-ditch interception (1 per 90) or tackle the ball (2.6 per 90), demonstrating his good anticipation and concentration. In addition to his size and strength, Moscardo’s stamina is already world-class, allowing him to constantly chase players or get back in position just in time to delay the opposition’s attack, averaging around 4.7 balls recoveries per game, illustrating his importance in transitional moments as well.
The main thing that sets Gabriel apart is that he combines his physical and technical gifts proficiently along with his phenomenal defensive awareness. His expansive understanding of situations and space is already visible at such a young age. Moscardo constantly scans over both shoulders, which means he has a perpetual internal map of his teammates and the opposition. This situational awareness also comes in handy when defending in the box. His recognition of off-ball runs is exceptional, making sure to either pick them up himself or pointing at his teammates to tag onto the opposition to avoid them receiving the ball.
For set pieces, given his capacity to take long shots when afforded the time and space, he could be an ideal candidate to station outside the box, as he can cause the opposition a problem or two if said shot is on target; if possession is lost from these scenarios he has the defensive prowess to more than likely delay the attack or retrieve the ball back.
Without a doubt the young Brazilian looks to have everything it takes to be a world class player in his position but is definitely still far from being the finished product as there are some small weaknesses in his defensive arsenal. For example, sometimes he gets dragged out of the midfield when teams overload players in between the lines. He often picks up the player beside him in a bid to block the passing lane or pressure them. This in turn leaves quite a bit of space between him and his midfield partners, allowing an opposition forward to drop in between them to pick up the ball.
In addition to that, Gabriel sometimes lacks the necessary speed to keep up with wingers when forced to defend in wide areas, leaving him prone to being exposed. When he can position himself in front of a winger out wide, he can hold his own in 1v1 situations, but gets caught out when trying to keep up with a player already on the move. These two issues are only minor and the positives to his game far outweigh the negatives in the grand scheme of things.
In conclusion, Moscardo is a near-complete midfielder at his age whose wide variety of skills allow him to play multiple roles in the middle of the park. His potential as an on-ball creator is so apparent that some of the best clubs in the world already have his name shortlisted as a possible transfer target. With rumors prematurely swirling, Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea are just some of the teams reported to be monitoring his progress. His immediate attributes are extremely portable to elite teams as great defensive-minded leaders that are good on the ball fit well in almost all tactical setup.
All the same, if the top clubs want to look at signing him, it would probably be best to maybe wait a season or two to see whether his development can take a further leap as a lot can happen between the ages of 17 and 20. Delaying his sale would also be beneficial for Corinthians, as they could cash in on a much more complete player compared to now. With that being said, Moscardo is definitely one to keep an eye on in the future as he is undeniably talented enough to reach the pinnacle of the game.