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Leandro Damião – From Tottenham and Napoli to Real Betis

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here was a time not so long ago that the name Leandro Damião was a household name in European football, despite the Brazilian striker still plying his trade in South America.

The gifted centre forward was a name on countless lips and a regular in the press over a couple of transfer windows in 2012, 2013 and 2014, where a host of European clubs were said to be battling for his signature.

Tottenham Hotspur fans will recognise his name most given their consistent links to the striker, which became tedious given their frequency.

It was also revealed that Napoli were keen to land Damião before swooping for Gonzalo Higuaín.

Despite these rumoured moves to prominent European teams falling through, it appeared only a matter of time before the centre forward ended up in England, Italy or Spain.

Fast forward a couple of years and the chance has arrived for the Brazilian, but in less prestigious circumstances than expected.

Damião has ended up at Real Betis and has finally received an opportunity to prove himself in a continent where so many of his countrymen have become global superstars.

While at Internacional, the lofty striker quickly built a reputation for himself as a predatory marksman and was touted as a future mainstay of the Brazil national side.

Over four years at the Porto Alegre outfit Damião scored regularly and also made his international debut, playing 17 times for the Seleção over a two-year period between 2011 and 2013.

However, when a move away from Internacional came it was within Brazilian borders, as Santos swooped to sign the striker in a bumper deal.

Things never quite worked out for Damião as planned at Vila Belmiro, with a solitary campaign being followed by a loan spell with Cruzeiro.

Leandro DamiãoUpon his return to Santos a bitter quarrel over the player’s contract led to court action and the eventual release of the striker into the free agent market.

With massive transfer fees, joint ownership issues and stubborn employers no longer issues, Damião was free to make the move to Europe in February.

However, instead of clubs competing in the Champions and Europa Leagues, it was Betis who beat modest Italian side Atalanta to the Brazilian’s signature.

Looking back at the last number of years, Damião will surely feel regret that a move to a major European club was not secured as his reputation and standing in the game have diminished since.

He has not played for Brazil since 2013, despite a chronic lack of proven number nines at the historic South American nation’s disposal, and clearly has not lived up to the potential of his early career.

Damião made his first start as a Betis player in the 1-0 home defeat to Malaga last time out and will take time to regain fitness and find his feet in Spain.

Betis have a history of Brazilian players in the green and white, with Denilson famously becoming the world’s most-expensive player when he moved to the Benito Villamarín in 1998.

It may well take the rest of this season for Damião to settle into his new surroundings and he will hope to hit the ground running from 2016-17. He initially signed only for a six months with the La Liga side and as such needs to justify a longer deal.

Having been spoken of as a potential world-beater in his younger days, at 26 it is time for the Brazilian to rekindle the promise he showed at Internacional now that his move to Europe has finally been granted.

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