- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SAO PAULO (AP) - Although Santos striker Gabriel Barbosa doesn’t like the comparison, Brazilians see him as the next Neymar.

How’s that for pressure?

Known as “Gabigol,” the 19-year-old Santos forward is ranked as Brazil’s most promising player.

“I can only be myself,” Barbosa told The Associated Press. “I am not Neymar. I have to do well at Santos first. European football has to come naturally.”

That is almost guaranteed.

The website Transfermarkt ranked him as Brazil’s No. 1 young player with a worth of about 12 million euros ($13 million). That is probably too low.

Italian club Fiorentina is already reported to have offered 20 million euros ($22 million), and Santos says it wants more than twice that much.

It might be three times that number if Neymar, now playing for Barcelona, is the benchmark.

Neymar is now embroiled in a court case in Spain in which Barcelona is accused of hiding the cost of his transfer from Santos in 2013. Barcelona says the deal cost about $74 million, though investigations in Spain say it was closer to $90 million.

Barbosa scored 18 goals last season in Brazil’s two most important competitions and, although he’s compared to Neymar, many see him more like Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, Neymar’s teammate at Barcelona.

Barbosa and Neymar have played only 20 minutes together, and that was when Neymar was still at Santos. But they will be united on Brazil’s Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro as the country tries to win its first soccer gold medal.

Barbosa’s stock has risen recently as he has learned to become more of a team player. Former Santos coaches have been very open about saying his selfish style had hurt the team. But that changed when Dorival Junior took over as Santos coach last year.

“If you don’t change the attitude, there is no use in training more,” Junior said. “Gabriel has learned to play with the team. We will soon see him among the biggest football stars in the world.”

Former Santos chairman Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro said Barbosa needs more time to develop in Brazilian soccer, but he doubts that European clubs will be that patient.

This is a good time to buy with the Brazilian currency having lost about one-third of its value in the last several years against other major currencies, making Brazilian players a bargain.

Interest in Barbosa is likely to come after the Olympics, during the next European transfer window.

“The pressure to take our jewels to Europe is always high,” Ribeiro said. “And now the exchange rate is more favorable than when Neymar left.”

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