It snuck under the radar thanks to the big-money signing of Kyle Walker, but on Saturday Manchester City announced the arrival of Douglas Luiz from Vasco da Gama.
The 19-year-old has penned a five-year deal with the Citizens, who are believed to have stumped up around £10.5million – with a further £1.75million in add-ons – for his services.
“He is an exciting player with great potential, and everyone here is looking forward to helping him develop his talent and progress in the game,” swooned City director of football Txiki Begiristain, but the truth is that Douglas is something of an unknown quantity on these shores.
Here’s all you need to know:
Douglas is an all-action midfielder who burst onto the scene for Vasco – one of Brazil’s most traditional clubs – near the end of last year and cemented his reputation as one of the country’s most promising youngsters with a series of fine performances in the first half of 2017. He’s a regular for Brazil’s U20 side and viewed as a future senior international.
Douglas grew up in the Nova Holanda favela in Rio’s northers sprawl and came to organised football relatively late: it was only in late 2012 that he caught the eye at a trial for Vasco’s youth team. From there, he never looked back, establishing himself as one of the key figures of a fine academy generation (fellow midfielder Jean is also a promising talent) and making his senior debut last August.
Jorginho, the a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994, was the man who gave him that chance. “I saw him training with the youth team, I liked the way he played and we decided to promote him to train with the senior squad,” he told Globo this week. “He’s a kid with huge talent. He grabbed the opportunity we gave him and didn’t let it go.”
The teenager is an dynamic midfielder capable of shielding the back four and bursting forward to make a difference in attack. He is confident on the ball, picks the right passes under pressure and isn’t afraid to try the spectacular, whether with a dribble or a shot from range. But he’s no show pony; there’s also a maturity to his game that has won over fans and colleagues alike.
Jorginho thinks Douglas can be a box-to-box force in the years to come. “He has technical ability, strength, a powerful shot from outside the area, that penetration,” he said in April. “He’s not the kind of player who dominates his man and scraps, but he has good positional sense and brings the ball out really well.
“His passing is great over short and long distances. He can carry the ball, start counter-attacks, but also time his runs into the area. That makes him dangerous and he gets some important goals.”
Is he highly rated?
Very much so. “Douglas is the real thing,” Vasco coach Milton Mendes said earlier this year. “He’s one of the top defensive midfielders in Brazil, but he can play a more attacking role when the team requires. He has potential that you don’t see in many players. He’s a classic No.8 and I’m sure [Brazil coach] Tite is smart enough to find a spot for him in the Seleção.”
Jorginho agrees. “I am certain he has a brilliant future ahead of him,” he said.
Did City have competition?
Yes. Lyon and CSKA Moscow also made contact with Vasco and City, who had scouts at a number of Brazil U20 and Vasco games earlier in the year, were probably working on the assumption that competition for Douglas’ signature was only likely to intensify with more exposure.
Will he make the starting XI?
Not for the time being, no. Given that Douglas is unlikely to meet the criteria for a UK work permit initially, he will probably head out on loan before being integrated into Pep Guardiola’s squad. City alluded to this at the weekend, saying they will soon release “a further statement about Douglas’ immediate development pathway”.
His likely destination is Spanish outfit Girona. They have been tipped to be added to City Football Group this summer – Media Base, the agency run by Pere Guardiola is expected also involved in the deal – and, crucially for Douglas’ progress, will play in the top flight for the first time in their history in 2017/18.
Are Vasco sad to see him go?
From a playing perspective, yes. But financially, but the feeling is that this is also a decent deal for them. The sale is the most lucrative in their history – the fee easily trumps those paid by Spartak Moscow for Rômulo (€8million), Shakhtar Donestk for Alex Teixeira (€6million) and Inter for Philippe Coutinho (€3.5million) – and comes at a good time: Vasco are in a lot of debt and needed to bring in some cash to pay players and staff wages they were owed.
It certainly looks like Douglas will miss his childhood club, judging by a message posted on Instagram. “The day has come to say ‘see you soon’ to the family that welcomed me when I was just a child chasing a dream,” he wrote. “I have made great friends at Vasco, being around with people who have taught me a lot. I can only say thank you to the club and its immense fans for everything they have done for me and my family. I will never forget you. Thank you for everything.”
Is it a risk for City?
It may look that way on the face of it: Douglas has made just 39 senior appearances, scoring five times, and clearly still has some developing to do. Yet the transfer could prove to be fantastic value. The speed with which Gabriel Jesus adapted to the Premier League quickly made the €32million outlay for his services look like pocket change, which is likely to have emboldened the club to seek out more untapped talent in Brazil.
If Douglas can have anything like that impact, City will have pulled off another fine bit of business.