Matheus Índio: The wonderkid tangled in football politics

He prefers to be called by his nickname Índio which means Indian; a reference to his appearance. However, his real name is Matheus da Cunha Gomes. Índio is a technically gifted playmaker who has tremendous vision and creativity. He currently plays for Vasco de Gama, his boyhood club. A natural central midfielder, who is versatile enough to play on the left wing and also just behind the striker, in a number 10 role. His playing style resembles that of a Spanish playmaker, such as the likes of Isco and Fabregas, mixed with the Brazilian flair that every football fan has become accustomed to. He is possibly, the best young player to come out of Vasco de Gama youth set up since Philippe Coutinho. However, court cases and legal disputes have meant that this wonderkid has spend more time on the sideline than actually on the pitch in the last two years.

Just like many other young Brazilians, Indio, has always had a dream to one day become a professional footballer “…playing for a club in Europe.” Since the age of 4, he played futsal and worked on his ball control and technique. He impressed so much, that at the age of 7, he was signed by Vasco de Gama. This was after performing well against their futsal in a match. He played both futsal and 11 a side football during his time in Vasco de Gama’s youth set-up. And at the age of 9, he was already being pipped against boys three years older than him. After years of stunning displays in the youth set-ups and trophies under his belt as well, Indio, was thrown onto the international stage at the age of 15; where he represented the Brazil U15 national team. He shone during the international tournaments and by the age of 16, he was already attracting the interests of clubs worldwide. At 16 years old, he was being tipped to be placed in the Vasco de Gama first team and Arsenal football club even took him on a week long trial. He was coming to the peak of his hype, and he knew he had to take advantage of it, as he stated “spending this week at Arsenal will be nice, I hope to take advantage of it. Of course, I dream of playing for a club in Europe, but everything will come in its own time.” And a year later, he represented the Brazil U17 team in the Youth World Cup wearing the number 17 jersey; this is where he showcased why his growing reputation was justified.

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Sadly, behind the scenes it was a different story. The attention he was attracting was creating disputes at Vasco de Gama. Índio’s representatives, the club and his family were all tied in a complex dispute about wages. The representatives of Índio claimed that the club was taking advantage of the young wonderkid and were not paying his salary. They filed a lawsuit against Vasco de Gama but “the club denied the charge and filed an appeal to keep the player.” During this time, European club FC Porto, tried to sign Índio but Vasco blocked negotiations between the two clubs and didn’t want to proceed until the legal issue was resolved. This resulted in a long and drawn out legal battle, that eventually lead to him and his family agreeing to terminate his contract with Vasco de Gama. However, because Indio was such a valuable asset, Vasco de Gama, did not want to lose such an asset without a fight. They wanted some sort of compensation for their loss so they threatened any interested parties who wanted to take Indio, who was now a free agent, with a possible multi million dollar fine. This resulted in him spending the last few months of 2013 without a club, a stark contrast from where he and all his observers thought he would be at this stage in his career.

Early 2014, just after his 18th birthday, a lesser known team called Penapolense gave him a route back into football. They signed him and took a gamble on him, despite the threat of facing a possible fine. However, his stint at Penapolense was erratic. He only managed to play two games and he spent a lot of the time on the sidelines. As this was going on so was the legal battle, it was still continuing between Indio’s representatives and Vasco de Gama. A few months after joining, Indio left Penapolense and he started training with Santos, a very respected team in Brazil. He impressed during his brief stint training with the club, that they offered him a professional contract. But out of the blue, a judicial ruling went Vasco de Gama’s way and Índio’s issues with the club were resolved. They decided to reactivate his contract and in July 2014 he resigned with his boyhood club.  He spent the last few months of the year on loan at Santos to continue his training and improve his fitness. And, on the 5th of January 2015 his return to Vasco was officially confirmed and he has been representing their U20 team ever since.

Recent news, seems to suggest he is now back on the right path. Indio, recently got a new agent in former footballer Deco, who also works with super agent Jorge Mendes. With the knowledge, influence and network Deco can provide the young player, the future does look bright once again. But months of legal disputes has set him back in his development and only time will tell, to see if he will ever fulfil his massive potential and one day realise his dream of one day playing in Europe.



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