Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa's success at Flamengo was never going to pave the way for a return to Inter, according to the Brazil striker's agent.

The 23-year-old spent just 12 months in Italy following his transfer from Santos in August 2016, scoring one goal in nine Serie A appearances before being loaned out to Benfica, where he played a single league match.

From there he re-joined Santos on another temporary deal and then moved to Flamengo, first on loan before making a permanent switch to the Maracana in January 2020, reportedly earning Inter €17million.

Gabigol's 25 goals in 29 Serie A appearances for Flamengo in 2019, which came after a haul of 18 league strikes for Santos the previous year, led to speculation that Inter might try to recall him.

But his agent, Junior Pedroso, insists that was never a possibility.

He told Calciomercato.com: "Have you ever heard Gabigol say, 'I'm doing very well in Brazil, now I want to show Inter that I can do well there as well', or something like that? No, never.

"The reality is that there was no chance of returning. It was never an option."

Since signing permanently for Flamengo, Gabigol has scored 11 goals in 10 matches across all competitions, and Pedroso believes leaving Inter for good was the best outcome for all parties.

"It was a good deal for everyone: Inter wanted to negotiate the sale, Flamengo wanted to buy him and Gabriel wanted to return to his club," said Pedroso.

"I would like to take this opportunity to say that Flamengo have been very professional with their leadership."

Has there ever been a football player you've loved watching so much that you could be confident of writing down a long list of reasons for your adoration?

For me, that player is Ronaldinho, and seeing as the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2005 Ballon d'Or recipient turns 40 on Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute.

The former World Cup winner will celebrate his birthday in a maximum-security Paraguayan prison after being accused of entering the country on a fake passport – and he apparently continues to rack up goals and assists in kickabouts behind bars. Only Ronaldinho.

In honour of the legendary Brazilian on this landmark day, here are the 40 reasons why I love him.

 

1. Within three minutes of kick-off in a Paris Saint-Germain versus Marseille game I recorded on VHS in March 2003, he flicked the ball over the heads of two players and won a free-kick when dribbling away. When he scored with a dink over the keeper later in that game, a love affair was born.

2. He was the master of the no-look pass. And it didn't even need to be necessary.

3. Whether you call it an elastico or a flip-flap, Ronaldinho loved them. It was the trick I was most beguiled by as a teenager and, to my endless frustration, could never get right myself.

4. He marked his debut for Barcelona with a stunning 30-yard drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. It was gone 01:00 local time!

5. Ronaldinho had arrived in Catalonia with the reputation of a party lover firmly established. Who can blame him – if you were that good, wouldn't you just want to constantly celebrate?

6. That goal against Chelsea.

7. He assisted Ludovic Giuly in a 3-0 win over Osasuna in October 2005 using his back. I mean, who does that?!

8. He picked Barcelona over Manchester United. Nothing against the Red Devils, but it would have been tough to watch him play for a Premier League team that wasn't mine.

9. That samba shuffle celebration and the thumb-and-little-finger hand gesture.

10. He got a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu – as a Barcelona player.

11. Those cascading locks and gummy smile.

12. He scored directly from a corner for Flamengo during a 3-2 defeat to Avai in 2011. Anyone with a 'gol olimpico' on their resume gets the utmost kudos.

13. As a keen follower of Brazilian football, I was delighted when Ronaldinho signed for Fluminense – the team I'd chosen to support during a three-month stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was somehow even better when he terminated his 18-month contract after just nine appearances.

14. Alongside former Everton striker Jo and current Everton winger Bernard, he helped Atletico Mineiro win their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.

15. He always seemed to be playing with a smile on his face, or at least not far away from it.

16. Ronaldinho may have been in decline and far from his twinkling best when he rocked up at Liga MX side Queretaro, but a double against Club America earned him a standing ovation at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

17. He posed for a photo with me in Barcelona. OK, it was via a green screen, all right?!

18. That was during an October 2003 visit to the city that included going to watch Barca take on Real Murcia. Ronaldinho made sure to treat me to a goal in a 3-0 win.

19. He made England's elimination from the 2002 World Cup a little less painful with the most outrageous of goals. (I reckon he meant it, too.)

20. For starring in Nike's iconic 'The Cage' and 'Ole' adverts.

21. Somehow, he scored from behind the goal during a training session with Flamengo. It was the kind of sorcery most can only dream of.

22. Before going viral was a thing, Ronaldinho went viral. Footage of him juggling the ball and volleying it against the crossbar FOUR times in succession without it hitting the ground wrote him into folklore. I still don't know whether it was real or not…

23. When Ronaldinho dribbled, he did it at electric pace and with startling agility, and although he often took several knocks he did his utmost to stay on his feet.

24. It was a Champions League semi-final against Milan: chest control, the ball lifted over Gennaro Gattuso's head, flicked past Andrea Pirlo with two more touches, and when Alessandro Nesta deigned to get in his way, Ronaldinho stretched a leg out behind him and used his heel to square to Samuel Eto'o.

25. In the days before Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite struggled with freestyle tricks at Barcelona presentations, Ronaldinho was balancing the ball on his head, rolling it forward to give it a little kiss, then sending it back to rest on his forehead. That's how you do it.

26. He made great use of his shoulder; either to deftly bring the ball down or flick it on to a team-mate.

27. His 360-degree spin to get between two Werder Bremen players. It doesn't even matter that he was tackled by the next defender.

28. He did not join Manchester City after leaving Barcelona. (See point eight.)

29. For filling countless hours of my time at university with his YouTube highlights.

30. Ronaldinho was able to baffle defenders without even touching the ball.

31. Because he scored one of the most jarring chips during his time at Atletico. From 16 yards out on the left side of the box, with the Arsenal de Sarandi goalkeeper seemingly in a good position, Ronaldinho clipped a beautiful effort into the top-left corner.

32. Most of the greats excel from free-kicks. The sight of Ronaldinho stepping up to one in a central area from a 90-degree angle to the goal was a thing of beauty.

33. Because he did not retire straight away after leaving Fluminense. He said he wanted to continue playing (but only after Rio's famous carnival, of course) and ended up going on tour, playing in exhibition games for whoever would pay him.

34. For teeing up Lionel Messi's first senior goal for Barcelona, and doing it with a scoop pass.

35. Against Villarreal at Camp Nou in the 2006-07 season came one of his most memorable strikes. After controlling Xavi's cross with his chest, he span 180 degrees and sent a bicycle kick back across goal. *chef's kiss*

36. For scoring under-the-wall free-kicks at Barcelona, Flamengo and Atletico.

37. His 'water bottle trick' when Atletico took on Sao Paulo. Go and look it up. He showed zero shame in punishing Rogerio Ceni's goodwill.

38. Throughout his career Ronaldinho kept trying to score by stealing the ball away from goalkeepers as they took a drop kick.

39. Another El Clasico moment from April 2004. This time it was an outrageous scoop in behind for Xavi to lift beyond Iker Casillas in the 86th minute and secure a 2-1 win.

40. Because in my lifetime, no other player has made watching football as enjoyable as he did.

Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus returned a negative result for coronavirus, the Brazilian champions announced.

Jesus tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, though it was weak or inconclusive and being checked.

The 65-year-old Portuguese was cleared of the virus on Wednesday amid the pandemic, which has claimed almost 9,000 lives globally.

"Flamengo inform the new exam carried out by coach Jorge Jesus confirmed a negative result for COVID-19," the club said via Twitter.

"The club are grateful for the support of the entire Red-Black Nation to the Mister in the last days."

Jesus has enjoyed great success at the helm of Flamengo since arriving in 2019, leading the club to Campeonato Brasileiro, Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana glory.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo then added the Recopa – which pits the Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions against each other – to their collection in February.

Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus said he was feeling fine after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Brazilian Serie A champions announced on Monday that Jesus, 65, has tested positive for COVID-19, although it was weak or inconclusive and being checked.

In a message posted on Instagram, Jesus said he was asymptomatic despite the positive test.

"Hello. Good afternoon in Brazil, good night in Portugal. True, my test was positive," he said.

"It is also true that I feel normal, I am feeling exactly as I felt a month ago, a year ago, two, three, four ... I am normal. I don't feel any symptoms.

"But I had a positive test. I'll be in reclusion. I want to thank the affection of my friends and the fans of Flamengo for sharing this situation with me.

"I think that in a few days everything will be back to normal, God willing. A big kiss to everyone. I am very confident."

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced the suspension of all national football competitions for an indefinite period on Sunday.

Jorge Jesus said he wants to continue as Flamengo head coach amid contract talks with the Brazilian and South American champions.

Jesus has enjoyed great success at the helm of Flamengo since arriving in 2019, leading the club to Campeonato Brasileiro, Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana glory.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo then added the Recopa – which pits the Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions against each other – to their collection in February.

Former Benfica and Sporting CP boss Jesus, 65, does not intend to leave Rio de Janeiro just yet after discussing his future.

"The person who brought me to Brazil already had meetings with people related to Flamengo the other week," the Portuguese told Fox Sports.

"I want to talk when things are practically defined."

Jesus added: "My dream has always been to win a Champions League. But Flamengo have already made me change that dream a little bit… My will is to continue. It is in the hands of Flamengo."

Brazilian giants Flamengo are on a 10-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.

Flamengo top the Campeonato Carioca – the annual championship of the state of Rio de Janeiro – following back-to-back victories to open the season, while the club kicked off their Libertadores defence with a 2-1 win at Junior on March 4.

Arsenal loanee Pablo Mari is determined to secure a permanent transfer to the Premier League side from Flamengo at the end of the season.

Mari swapped Brazilian champions Flamengo for Arsenal on an initial loan deal during the January transfer window and the defender has impressed.

In his two appearances for Arsenal, Spanish centre-back Mari has helped Mikel Arteta's side keep consecutive clean sheets.

"Yeah, of course," Mari told reporters when asked if he wants to join Arsenal permanently after Saturday's 1-0 win over West Ham.

"I am so happy here. I am going to try and do my best until the end of the season.

"I hope also the club is happy with me and then we are going to find a good end for everybody.

"I want to play in one of the best leagues in the world and I am now here. I am going to do my best for the team, for the club, to win a lot of games and also for the fans to enjoy with me."

Arsenal are ninth in the Premier League after 28 matches, eight points adrift of London rivals Chelsea – who occupy the fourth and final Champions League place.

Arteta's Arsenal travel to Etihad Stadium to face second-placed Manchester City on Wednesday.

 

Copa Libertadores and Brazilian champions Flamengo added the Recopa Sudamericana to their collection after easing past Independiente del Valle 3-0.

Following last week's 2-2 draw away to Independiente, 10-man Flamengo triumphed 5-2 on aggregate thanks to Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa and two-goal hero Gerson.

All-conquering Flamengo have taken South America by storm under head coach Jorge Jesus, ending trophy droughts domestically and continentally.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo sealed another piece of silverware on Wednesday in the annual CONMEBOL showdown between the previous year's Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions.

Gabigol – who made his move from Serie A side Inter to Flamengo permanent in January – gave the home side a 19th-minute lead after an embarrassing moment for Independiente.

Independiente defender Luis Segovia's header back to Jorge Pinos left his goalkeeper scrambling as the ball struck the crossbar and fell to the feet of Gabigol.

After team-mate Willian Arao saw red four minutes later, former Roma midfielder Gerson doubled Flamengo's lead in the 62nd minute and completed the scoring with a minute remaining following a red card to Independiente substitute Alejandro Cabeza.

New Real Madrid signing Reiner became emotional as he pondered the impact of his family in making his dream of joining Los Blancos a reality.

Following considerable transfer speculation, Madrid eventually completed the signing of Reinier in January from Flamengo in a deal reportedly worth a potential €35million.

Due to Reinier's involvement with Brazil in CONMEBOL's Pre-Olympic Tournament, in which the Selecao finished second to confirm their place at the 2020 Olympic Games, the 18-year-old was unable to join up with Madrid straight away.

But the attacking midfielder, who has been compared to former Madrid attacker Kaka, was presented to the Spanish media at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday as he prepares to make his official bow for the club's Castilla team.

"Everything that I experienced in childhood crossed my mind [when signing], since I left home with my father, I arrived in Rio alone, without my mother, without my sister," a visibly emotional Reinier told reporters before being encouraged to take a brief break by club director Emilio Butragueno.

"When I talk about my family I get very emotional because I am sure it was all thanks to them [that I'm here]. I thank them, also those [family members] in Brazil, like my grandmother. Since I was a child they helped me achieve my dream.

"This is a very happy day for me. I am fulfilling a childhood dream. We always talked about how amazing it would be to get here. I want to be part of the history of this great club.

"It is the realisation of a dream. Playing in Madrid was the dream of my father, my sister, my mother."

Reinier will initially link up with Castilla for the rest of the season, as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo did before him.

And while playing for third-tier Castilla may represent something of a culture shock compared to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo, regarded as the most-popular club in Brazil, Reinier is relishing playing under the guidance of Madrid icon Raul.

"Flamengo is the biggest team in South America, but I am happy," Reinier added. "I have already trained with Castilla, they are great people, I have already met Raul.

"He's one of my idols and he welcomed me. I'm very happy with our talk. He wished me luck, and I'm sure I will do my best. As we say in my country, I will give my life for Madrid.

"Tomorrow [Wednesday] we will be very well together again and I will be ready for Sunday."

Reinier could make his debut at home to Segunda B1's bottom side San Sebastian de los Reyes on Sunday, with Castilla – who are eighth – hoping to close in on the play-off spots.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Mari, 26, is Mikel Arteta's first signing since taking over as head coach in December after his switch from Flamengo was completed on Wednesday for a reported £4million loan fee.

The defender arrived in London with Arsenal technical director Edu on Saturday, who praised the Gunners' latest arrival.

"Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality," Edu said as the club confirmed the move.

"We have been monitoring Pablo's career for a while and we are very pleased to have reached agreement with Flamengo for him to join us initially until the end of our season.

"Together with Mikel and his coaching team, we are all looking forward to seeing Pablo in an Arsenal shirt."

Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July having been sent out for loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna.

At Flamengo, he was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.

Mari also featured when Flamengo lost the Club World Cup final against Liverpool 1-0 after extra time.

Arsenal have been keen to bolster their defensive options following injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac and have now landed their man.

"It's a massive opportunity for me to come to England, which is the best league in the world right now," said Mari.

"Being able to play in this league and having the opportunity to play for Arsenal is incredible, so I’m really looking forward to wearing the shirt as soon as possible.

"I want to help my team to win matches and give my fans something to celebrate."

Flamengo showed their gratitude to Mari as they confirmed his departure earlier in the day, saying: "The time has come for us to say goodbye.

"He is a defender who arrived at Flamengo to make his mark in our history with the Libertadores and the Brazilian Championship titles.

"Pablo Mari, thank you for everything."

Arsenal, unbeaten in six games across all competitions, sit 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's away match against Burnley.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Barcelona have seemingly given up on their pursuit of Rodrigo, while Manchester United are finally getting their man.

LaLiga giants Barca are eyeing a forward with Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

But while they reportedly targeted Rodrigo, their bid to land the Valencia forward appears over.

Meanwhile, a long-running saga is set to come to an end in Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE UP ON RODRIGO

'Rodrigo no' reads the cover of Sport, which reports Barcelona have stopped negotiations with Valencia for the forward.

The report says Barca cannot reach an economic agreement with Valencia, but are considering other options in their bid to sign a forward.

Rodrigo has scored just two goals in 18 LaLiga games for Valencia this season.

ROUND-UP

- It is finally set to be over. Bruno Fernandes' move from Sporting CP to Manchester United is practically done, according to Record. The Premier League club will pay £46.5million (€55m) for the midfielder, plus £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons with the potential for a further £12.7m (€15m).

- There could be some movement at Stamford Bridge in the coming days. AS reports Roma have made contact with Chelsea regarding Pedro, who has made just five Premier League appearances this season.

- Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are ready to launch bids for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Lemar, according to The Sun. The LaLiga club want £51m (€60.3m) for the Frenchman.

- Also at Spurs, the Mirror reports Tottenham are set to sign PSV attacker Steven Bergwijn for £25.4m (€30m).

- Pablo Mari's move to Arsenal appears set to become official. Globo Esporte reports the Flamengo defender will join the Premier League club on loan until June, with his club receiving £4.2m (€5m) and Arsenal holding an option to make the move permanent.

Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa and Matteo Politano have agreed permanent exits from Inter, joining Flamengo and Napoli respectively.

Flamengo are said to have paid €17million to sign Gabriel, while Politano has joined Napoli on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy.

After failing to make his mark upon arriving at San Siro for a reported €25m in August 2016, Gabigol shone on loan at Flamengo last year. He scored 43 goals in 60 games as Jorge Jesus led them to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores glory.

The 23-year-old striker was linked with a move to West Ham but signed a five-year deal to stay at Flamengo on Tuesday.

Inter also agreed to let Politano depart after he became a peripheral figure under Antonio Conte.

Politano started 31 Serie A games for Luciano Spalletti last season, leading to the Nerazzurri exercising an option to make his loan from Sassuolo permanent.

However, after being named in Conte's starting line-up just three times in 2019-20, he was allowed to leave for Napoli.

Politano was expected to return to Roma, where he spent his youth career before joining Pescara in 2013, but the move fell through and Gennaro Gattuso's side swooped in.

Inter announced the arrival of Christian Eriksen from Tottenham on Tuesday and are now expected to push forward with a move for Olivier Giroud of Chelsea, having already signed Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

Real Madrid have long been touted as favourites to tempt Kylian Mbappe from Paris.

Mbappe idolises Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, who has made no secret of his desire to sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But should Liverpool splash the cash, Mbappe could reportedly find himself at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OPEN TO REDS

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe would be open to joining Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool, according to journalist Julien Laurens.

Mbappe has long been tipped to eventually swap PSG for LaLiga giants Real Madrid, where he is coveted by fellow Frenchman and head coach Zinedine Zidane.

However, Laurens claims Liverpool could be an option, should the English side meet PSG's demands.

 

ROUND-UP 

Manchester United want Alexis Sanchez to return to the club at the end of the season, says the Daily Star. On loan at Serie A outfit Inter following a horror spell in Manchester, the Red Devils have decided to give the Chilean forward another chance to prove himself.

- West Ham have offered €40million (£33.7m) to Cagliari for Uruguay international Nahitan Nandez, reports Tuttomercatoweb.

- With Carles Perez edging closer to Roma, Barcelona could also sell Ivan Rakitic. According to Marca, Juventus are keeping tabs on the experienced midfielder.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Roma have contacted Chelsea over veteran forward Pedro, who is out of contract at season's end.

Flamengo have agreed terms with Inter to sign Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa on a permanent basis, reports ESPN Brazil, Globoesporte and Sportitalia.

Juventus are still pondering a swap deal that would see full-back Mattia De Sciglio move to PSG in exchange for Layvin Kurzawa, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European heavyweight reportedly interested in the forward.

Aubameyang, 30, is reportedly a target for Barcelona after scoring 16 goals in 26 games for struggling Arsenal this season.

However, with Edinson Cavani potentially leaving, PSG are also eyeing the Gabon international.

 

TOP STORY – PSG INTERESTED IN AUBAMEYANG AMID BARCELONA LINKS

PSG are considering a move for Aubameyang, according to Foot Mercato.

Cavani may leave the Ligue 1 giants for Atletico Madrid during this transfer window and Aubameyang could be his replacement, the report says.

PSG are reportedly discussing a loan with an option to buy Aubameyang.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are close to a deal for Flamengo defender Pablo Mari, according to ESPN and other reports. The Premier League club will reportedly pay £8.4million (€10m) for the Spaniard.

- Marcos Rojo could be on his way out of Manchester United. After just three Premier League appearances this season, the defender is heading back to Estudiantes – where he started his career – on loan, according to the Mirror.

- Carles Perez is set to join Roma. Sky Sport Italia reports the Barcelona forward will join the Serie A club on loan until the end of the season, with a mandatory purchase option for €13m to be part of the deal.

- Inter are already preparing for a period of dominance, including next season. Sport Italia reports Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne has been offered to Inter, who may land the forward ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

- Inter and Napoli seem to have a decent relationship. CalcioMercato reports Matteo Politano will swap Milan for Naples, where he will sign a deal until 2024 with a medical set for Monday.

- Mauricio Pochettino remains without a job after being sacked by Tottenham in November. The Mirror reports Spurs will be entitled to £10m in compensation if the Argentinian finds another job before the end of the season.

Flamengo defender Pablo Mari arrived in London ahead of an anticipated move to Arsenal.

Mari is expected to join the Gunners on loan with an option to buy – which is reportedly set at £7.5million – after arriving at Heathrow Airport with Arsenal technical director Edu on Saturday.

The 26-year-old is set to become Mikel Arteta's first signing since taking over as head coach in December.

Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July after loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna.

The 26-year-old was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.

He also featured when Flamengo lost the Club World Cup final against Liverpool 1-0 after extra time.

Arsenal have been keen to bolster their defensive options following injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac.

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