Gabriel Barbosa was regarded as one of the hottest prospects in world football when he signed for Inter Milan from Santos in 2016. The then-20-year-old was wanted by a clutch of Europe's super clubs, but reveals a chat with the manager convinced him to go to Italy.
"After the Olympics I had a good chat with the manager [Frank de Boer] and board about Inter’s future, and that was crucial," Barbosa tells the October issue of FourFourTwo magazine, which you can order here. "There were other clubs interested, but I decided to join Inter as I was convinced their project was the best one for me at that moment.
But the player who has been capped five times by Brazil reveals Manchester United also showed a keen interest.
"I know that United approached me because my agent said something about it, but the negotiations didn’t go forward," he explains. "They were preliminary talks. I know other clubs were following the situation, but I was convinced Inter was right for me.
"They have a huge history and are a giant club. I don’t have any regrets at all – everything was worth living. I’m now 24 and can definitely say that I’m a more complete player thanks to every experience I’ve had, good and bad."
During his two and a half year spell in Milan - in which he was loaned out to Benfica, Santos and Flamengo at various stages - Barbosa failed to live up to his billing, scoring just once in 10 matches for his parent club. Despite his struggles, he had plenty of offers on the table when he opted to leave in January this year.
"I was told about interest from teams in England as well as Germany," he recalls. "I won’t tell you the clubs in question, but my agent spoke to me about two real offers to join Premier League sides. Again, though, my decision was made by analysing all the projects."
The new issue of FourFourTwo, out in shops and available to order online now, includes a behind-the-scenes look at Manchester United's efforts to rebuild under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Barbosa'a decision to sign a permanent deal with Flamengo, where he scored 43 goals in 59 loan appearances en route to winning the South American Football of the Year gong, appears to have been an easy one.
"I felt that Flamengo was the best option for my career," he says. "I was definitely honoured to hear of interest from two English clubs – as the Premier League is an incredibly good league – but decided to stay with Flamengo at this time."
Despite his decision to return to Brazil, the 24-year old isn't ruling out a stint in the Premier League in future.
"Any player who has ambition to reach the top would want to feature in the Premier League – and that’s the same in my case," he tells FFT. "It’s a pleasure to watch those games. The dynamic and intensity of matches are impressive – they’re full of emotion for 90 intense minutes."
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