Tottenham Hotspur have had a long-running interest in Internacional’s Leandro Damiao, frequently making bids to sign the striker and failing. His potential is undeniable, nor is that of his team-mate Oscar. The pair are the heartbeat of the Porto Alegre side and having failed to lure Leandro to White Hart Lane, perhaps it is time for Spurs to turn their attention to the 20-year-old playmaker who has been the subject of continual praise across South America.
Leandro earned himself a reputation as an assassin in front of goal after an excellent year in 2011 as he scored 38 times in 51 games and forged himself a regular spot in the full international team. As his status in the game grew he courted interest from many other top clubs; Porto, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus have all been linked to the Internacional man.
Leandro had a similarly prolific start to this year, finding the net regularly in both the Copa Libertadores and the Gaucho state championship. It has made him a certainty to be a part of the Brazil team as they chase their first ever Olympic gold in London this summer, but his performances in May and June’s friendlies were far outshone by those of his Internacional team-mate Oscar.
Operating in the hole behind the striker, Oscar is one of the most highly-rated young players in Brazil yet interest in him has not been as rife when compared to Lucas Moura, Neymar and Ganso. It is difficult to understand why. He put in a display of astute class belying his 20 years when Brazil defeated Denmark in 3-1 in late May. He pulled all the strings from a central attacking-midfield position and earned huge levels of praise for his creative displays.
Not only is he capable of threading a killer-pass through the defence and running at, and passing, defenders, but he also possesses a remarkable tenacity in midfield. His regular chasing of the ball enabled Brazil to break at speed and was key to the second goal against Denmark and also the opening penalty against the United States soon after. This quality makes him more versatile than his aforementioned counterparts as he could play deeper as part of a flat midfield four, though this would likely rein in some of his attacking flair.
There could be one specific reason for the lack of interest in the youngster: a contractual dispute that has only recently been settled. Oscar left Sao Paulo after the 2009 season citing unpaid wages as a reason for departing the club. The 20-year-old had recently been ordered to return to his former club by the courts but he refused. It made him unavailable to play for Internacional at the start of this year but the club eventually agreed to pay Sao Paulo just shy of £5m in compensation for the player.
With that now settled, potential dealings for European suitors become a lot clearer. After having another bid for Leandro Damiao rebuffed, it would perhaps be prudent for Spurs to capitalise on the affiliation between the two clubs and purchase Oscar instead.
As the future of Luka Modric become increasingly uncertain, Oscar would provide an ideal replacement. They are midfielders of a similar mould and the Brazilian would be a terrific investment. While there has been an ongoing striker problem at White Hart Lane which they had hoped Leandro could be the answer for, the loss of their Croatian talisman would be a much bigger blow. Oscar would possibly need time to adapt but he looks to have the class to compete at the very highest of levels.He would not be out of his depth in the Premier League. Fellow Brazilian Sandro has proved to be an asset to the north-London club despite a slow start when he joined from the Porto Alegre club.
It is hard to believe that interest in the player who scored a hat-trick in the Under-20 FIFA World Cup last year is so minimal. Spurs made a mistake by allowing their courtship of Leandro to carry on for so long, they must heed the errors of that saga and secure Oscar’s signature before the real heavyweights of Barcelona and Real Madrid show their hand, which they undoubtedly will eventually.