Following the departures of Nicolas Pépé and Rafael Leão in the summertime, there was a feeling the Stade Pierre-Mauroy would not be such a hotbed for talent spotters.
Not to be outshone by the new arrivals, 20-year-old Boubakary Soumaré and 22-year-old Gabriel have awakened this term, impressing hugely in Christophe Galtier’s side.
Interest in the latter just started to pick up the pace from the window, with Le10 Sport asserting Arsenal and Everton saw bids rejected by Lille.
The Ligue 1 side has extended Gabriel’s contract, together with the Brazilian now jump into the club until 2023 unless a substantial offer arrives. Lille anticipate increased bids to arrive this summer, particularly if Gabriel continues to impress.
But why are Premier League clubs so interested in a player with only 30 Ligue 1 begins and six Champions League appearances under his belt?
Despite his relative inexperience, Gabriel has revealed he has what it takes to compete at the top level.
The 22-year-old repelled most things on the afternoon, winning 60 percent of his aerial duels, 100 percent of his tackles and finishing 86 percent of the 62 passes he tried.
The left-sided centre-back has put in several of this term. He has shown his versatility and consistency, also, performs as part of a back three on occasion. What strikes you when viewing Gabriel is how composed he is.
The prior Avaí kid has a presence about him. When fronted up with a fleet-footed winger, he does not panic. He does not go to the ground . He tends to control the distance and claim the ball, much to the annoyance of the resistance. He wins 70 of his ground duels on average and 50 percent of his aerial conflicts. The 6ft 3ins centre-back sets his framework to good use.
But defenders are not just judged on what they do at the defensive third of nowadays. They are also tasked with affecting proceedings from the attacking areas. And Gabriel does exactly that.
He is heavily involved in Lille’s build-up play, averaging 64 moves per 90 and locating a team-mate with 82 percent. Unlike some, however, he is not just playing simple five-yard moves to midfielders.
Gabriel functions as a deep-lying playmaker for Lille. He can play moves between the lines but his pièce p résistance is the ball he plays over the surface of the opposition’s defence. Gabriel sprays moves all over the pitch but the true technique in what he does is the total amount of backspin he gets on the ball.
Not only does he put the ball into certain places, but he also weights the moves so well that team-mates are normally able to get the most out of them. They are not just hopeful balls over the top. They are precise, pinpoint passes. And that’s what separates him from others in his place.
He plays 40 percent of his moves forward and, of these long-balls, he is true with more than 50 percent.
The Brazilian ticks some of the boxes necessary for a modern-day centre-back. And given these players come at a premium nowadays, being able to snag a participant with all the potential to be an elite one for about £30million, it makes a move for him a no-brainer. It would be a danger but one club will need to take to get ahead.