Dubai: With Roberto Mancini as his coach, he’s played on a regular basis with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Patrick Vieira, Carlos Tevez and Vincent Kompany. But in 2013, when the former Manchester City attacker failed to reach a deal with city rivals United, Gabriel Fernando Almeida took the decision to move away from the highly competitive English Premier League (EPL).
Despite being in his teens then, Almeida had already been on the books of some of the biggest clubs in the world with his midfield exploits spreading far and wide. At a time when a majority of players from South America tend to begin their careers in their home nation, Almeida reversed this trend making his debut at Portuguese side Sporting while also doing stints with Tottenham Hotspur and then on to the bitter Manchester rivals.
But following the breakdown of his move to United, Almeida returned to his native Brazil donning colours for Flamengo, Corinthians and most recently Internacional and Bragantino.
It was during his two-year exposure at Manchester City between 2012 and 2013 that Almeida learnt a lot, and it is this brand of football that the well travelled youngster now wants to pass on as he attempts to find a team in the UAE. “I’ve watched so many Brazilians who have played here and I can see myself as a perfect fit for the conditions in the UAE. To my advantage, I have had some top-class experience at a such a young age and this can come in handy to any club that’s willing to sign me up,” Almeida told Gulf News during a brief visit to Dubai along with father Marcelo.
“I left home when I was quite young. It was like starting afresh in a brand-new world of football that I was not exactly familiar with. But those early years have helped me realise how fortunate I have been while playing in some of the best clubs and among the best players from across the world. I’ve taken a path that is normally not followed by most players, and I feel this experience has made a huge impact on my style and there is nothing that I cannot do with a ball.”
The attacking midfielder has developed over the years. He first made his exit from Brazil in 2003 and headed to Portuguese side Sporting for a two-year stint. This was followed by a move into England with Spurs, after which Almeida chose Manchester City for another two years.
It is during his time at City that the youngster befriended Emirati defender Sultan Al Suwaidi (now with Al Dhafra) and midfielder Mohammad Jamal (currently with Al Ain). Almeida, who turns 23 on September 3, has a contract with Clube Atletico Bragantino until the end of November.
“I’ve heard a lot about UAE football, not just from these friends but from other Brazilians who have been playing here,” he said.
“Many Brazilians have done well in the league here, but I feel I have a distinct advantage due to a mix of the Brazilian and European exposure I’ve had so early in my career. At such a young age I’ve learnt a lot and I can even go on to represent the UAE at some point.”
Name: Gabriel Fernando Morais Casseres de Almeida
Date of Birth: September 3, 1992
Place of Birth: Santos, Brazil
Citizenship: Brazil and Portugal
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Clubs: Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting CP, CR Flamengo, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, Sport Club Internacional, Clube Atletico Bragantino