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Barcelona target Gerson signs for Roma but now must prove himself

Roma completed the signing of Fluminense midfielder Gerson over the weekend after Barcelona relinquished their option on the 18-year-old. The Italian side paid a reported €16 million -- a hefty investment that is unlikely to bear immediate fruit.

Gerson came up through the ranks at Fluminense after choosing them over rivals Flamengo because the latter refused to cover the cost of transport to their training facilities from his home in Nova Iguacu. He impressed in youth competitions during 2014 and was called up to the first-team squad on three occasions towards the end of the season.

This has been Gerson's breakout year. Despite being one of the youngest players on show, he was one of the few to impress during Brazil's disappointing campaign in the South American U20 Championship at the turn of the year. His Fluminense debut came shortly after and he scored four times during their run to the semifinals of the Rio de Janeiro state championship. Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United and Roma all showed interest.

It was a swift rise to prominence and one that he has appeared to struggle with. While he has provided three assists in 15 appearances since the start of the national championship, his overall performance levels have dropped off. He was omitted from Brazil's squad for the U20 World Cup after falling out with then-coach Alexandre Gallo.

Gerson is still only 18 and it is unfair to expect great consistency of performance from such a young player, particularly in a team that is already on its third coach of the year. The Brasileiro is a step up in standard from the state championship and it is natural that it will take him a little time to adapt. Expectations have overtaken his current ability but with his future now decided he will hopefully be able to settle down and regain his focus.

Style

Gerson is regularly likened to Paul Pogba and there is an element of truth to the comparison. He shares the rangy stride and athletic build of the Juventus midfielder and was similarly dominant in a central role during the South American U20 Championship back in January. But he is not as comfortable using his weaker foot and is a little looser in style than the French international.

The 18-year-old has largely been used in a right-sided attacking midfield role since the commencement of the national championship but looks more at home in a deeper, central position with a full view of the pitch in front of him. The box-to-box role in a 4-3-3 would be the ideal position for him.

Major Strengths

- Good vision
- Wide passing range
- Athletic

Major Weaknesses

- A general lack of precision
- Needs to build upper body strength

Gerson has shown glimpses of his ability for Fluminense and was linked with Barcelona before agreeing to join Roma.

Assessment Breakdown

Tackling: Willing to put his foot in to try and win the ball back in midfield, which was more evident during the South American U20 Championship than in his subsequent appearances for Fluminense. Can be a bit clumsy and over-eager at times.

Marking: Tracks back with his full-back on occasion, although this is not always expected of him. His defensive awareness will need to be developed during his time in Italy.

Heading: Not the tallest but has a good leap and is capable of contesting high balls. Very rarely gets into the area to provide headed attempts on goal.

Close control: Possesses a good but occasionally inconsistent first touch and is also capable of skilfully manipulating the ball away from challenges in tight spaces. Accelerates powerfully. Out-muscled on occasion but will gain bulk and upper-body strength with age. Once he does he has the potential to be a very potent dribbler.

Passing: Capable of defence-splitting passes and is particularly effective during quick breaks, where he is able to spot and execute incisive passes at pace. Links neatly in tight spaces and also provides good longer diagonals. He has, however, been prone to a degree of laziness in possession in recent times.

Positioning: Some of his qualities are lost when he is used in a wide position, where he does not have the necessary freedom to utilise the full range of his movement. When deployed in the centre he shows a good understanding of when to drop back, when to hold his position and when to make off-ball forward runs into the channels.

Crossing: His crosses have yielded one assist and three further chances so far this season. Yet while he is capable of good deliveries, he also provides his fair share of poor ones. Needs to be more consistent.

Finishing: Produced a couple of crisp strikes into the corners from outside the area during the state championship earlier this year but has struggled to fashion similarly good shooting opportunities since the start of the Brasileiro. He has taken 19 shots in 15 appearances, with just five of those troubling the goalkeeper. Can be guilty of scuffing his efforts on goal when he rushes to shoot without setting himself properly.

The Brazil midfielder has yet to make his senior debut but has eight caps at U20 level.

What The Experts Say

Former Fluminense forward Rafael Sobis: "He's a great player. Maybe it's not good for him to hear it, but he's very good. He impressed me. I was at Fluminense this week and he's fantastic."

Trivia

Gerson was christened "Eddie Murphy" by his Fluminense teammate Wagner due to his supposed physical likeness to the American actor.

Conclusion

Gerson truly is a unique and intriguing prospect but his loss of focus in recent months suggests that his growth will need to carefully managed by Roma.

The 18-year-old will remain at Fluminense until the end of the year. Recent reports suggest that he will then be loaned out to an Italian club in January, with Bologna and Sampdoria mooted as potential destinations. It is, however, questionable whether this will provide him with the clear direction he requires at this stage of his development.

The raw talent and physical qualities are there for all to see and it is up to Roma, Gerson and those close to him to ensure that he stays on track and develops into the powerful and intelligent all-round midfielder that his attributes suggest he is capable of becoming.

Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.

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