Marseille hit jackpot in Doria signing
Transfer deadline day has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling monster, with clubs Europe-wide involved in a high-stakes game of brinkmanship as the clock ticks down.
Depending on both individual circumstance and the balance of power within a move, the constrictions can either see fees rocket up as the clock ticks or, in some cases, excellent value emerge. This time around, when it comes to value in the market, few deals can claim to match up to Marseille's Monday swoop for Brazil under-20 centre-back Doria.
The reputation of Brazilian defenders has understandably diminished internationally given events in Belo Horizonte earlier this summer, but it is actually a position of relative strength for the Selecao moving forward.
Of those, Doria is right among the very best. A tall left-footer with a broad frame and good speed, he has the basic attributes to reach the very highest levels of the game in the years ahead. At Marseille, that potential could well be unlocked.
Ever since making his Botafogo debut a little over two years ago, the Rio de Janeiro-born defender has been a regular fixture for his club under a succession of managers.
Despite coming into the side at just 17, he was able to hold his own against the wily and often bruising forwards of the Brasileirao to move from relative obscurity into the Brazil under-20 setup over the course of months. It is testament to his success that he retained his place even once the club's injury crisis had been resolved. It was a meteoric rise, capped by a full international debut less than a year after his emergence into the limelight. Regarding a move to Europe, it was already a case of when rather than if.
Botafogo have been a club in financial turmoil for some time, but have sought to retain Doria's services until now due to his significant and generally increasing value. Over the past two years, the club has been forced to sell first-team stars on a regular basis just to stave off graver issues and the club have struggled to even meet salary commitments this season.
It is fair to say their bargaining position was not as strong as it may have been. These are desperate times for the club that spawned Nilton Santos Garrincha, Jairzinho and Didi, with Lancenet reporting that the player himself was owed somewhere in the region of 500,000 euros prior to the deal. Marseille's offer, of which the club receive just under 40 percent, should go a long way to securing their financial viability for the remainder of the year at least.
Despite the complications, Marseille are the undoubted winners of the situation. Marcelo Bielsa's side have secured one of Brazil's brightest talents on a five-year contract for a price that leaves plenty of room for resale profit. More importantly from the coach's perspective, he has a left-footed defender of real quality to play in his back-three unit alongside converted midfielder Alaixys Romao and Nicholas N'Koulou. The adventurous Argentine will be keen to utilise Doria's ball-playing skills, in addition to his defensive qualities.
Key for the defender's development now is his understanding with those defensive colleagues. He has endured a below-par start to the 2014 season by his high standards and, even on international duty, has shown that he benefits greatly from a solid and experienced presence alongside him.
Doria reads the game well, with WhoScored.com showing that he makes 2.7 interceptions and 4.7 clearances per 90 minutes. However, he can be a little impetuous in conceding fouls, while his success rate of just 47 percent in aerial battles is considerably lower than that of his centre-back colleagues. Operating as a side defender in a back three, where he can be more aggressive in his and isn't necessarily tasked with marking the opposition's prime attacking threat, then, could be ideal at this stage of his development.
He will be expected to improve quickly and that extends also to his decision making on the ball. Doria always gives the impression of ease in possession and, indeed, is willing to step out of defence while rarely conceding the ball cheaply. His passing, though, leaves much to be desired.
A pass completion rate of just 74.4 percent this season demonstrates a clear need for improvement and, indeed, he only narrowly topped 75 percent over the course of last season. For a player of his technical ability it is simply not good enough and Bielsa will demand more. The tactical preferences of the Brazilian league, which do little to encourage possession-based play, account partially for the low figure, but Doria performs poorly even when compared to Botafogo teammates in this regard. On long balls out of defence, it is a similar story of inaccuracy.
There is a reason, though, that the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Juventus have been heavily linked to Doria in the past. He is a terrific defensive prospect at an age where most are still confined to reserve team football. Playing under a tactically-aware manager such as Bielsa should also do much to improve his decision making both with and without the ball over the months and years ahead. Along with PSG's Marquinhos, Doria is very much seen as the future of Brazil in the centre-back position and he is willing to learn.
Marseille need not worry greatly about his maturity or ability to handle the move. Off the pitch, Doria has a close relationship with his father who has helped guide him to this point in his career, while he married his childhood sweetheart late last year. By all accounts, he is a wise head on young shoulders and it was partly that maturity that saw some, including former manager Oswaldo de Oliveira recommending him for World Cup inclusion.
Clarence Seedorf is another who Doria can count among his admirers, with his former teammate having sought to arrange a deal to take the defender to Milan during his ill-fated stint at the helm of the Rossoneri. Timing, though, was not on the Dutchman's side and instead fate has conspired to see Marseille emerge victorious in the race for his signature.
Ligue 1 will serve as a good introduction to the demands of European football and from there it is up to Doria to prove that he can improve on his weaknesses and earn a shot at a Champions League giant. As Deadline Day deals go, Marseille may just have picked the winner in this year's mad race to the finish line.