As Nottingham Forest look to tinker with their squad once again in the summer window, Gustavo Scarpa is one of those who looks set to be shown the door.
A move to Olympiacos appears to be his next destination, as Scarpa now has a second opportunity to impress in Europe - although departing after nine months wasn’t part of the master plan.
Gustavo Scarpa was adored at Palmeiras.
Having won back-to-back Libertadores titles, two Campeonato Paulistas and the Copa do Brasil, the Brazilian departed the club completing the set with the Brasileiro title and Recopa Sudamericana.
Palmeiras fans were devastated to lose their most creative individual but many were also glad to see their star asset in the Premier League. There were no doubts from Brazil over his technical ability, who had more than earned his opportunity. Arriving later than most talents from South America, the move was totally just on his credentials alone. Having been selected for the Brasileiro Serie A Team of the Year, as well as the South American Team of the Year, Scarpa must have had a spring in his step as he packed up and left for life in the East Midlands.
Four goals and two assists from eight Libertadores appearances, as well as seven goals and 12 assists in 35 Serie A matches was levels above most in the Brazilian top flight. Yet after 10 appearances in the Garibaldi and no goals - where did it all go wrong?
Early impressions were promising
Scarpa’s move was no secret. His announcement as a Forest player on 4th December 2022 came as no surprise, despite not many knowing who he was. Forest fans were happy to see bodies in the door with the club in the relegation zone. However, Scarpa’s long gruelling season had only just come to an end. The then 28-year-old had played 58 games in 2022, before making the move across to England. After his shortest pre-season to date, Scarpa was back in competitive football. A trip to Spain for the Forest squad during the World Cup was a way to blow off any cobwebs and get up and running once again - although this was a lot earlier than Scarpa was used to.
His corners out in the sun caught the eye and before long, Scarpa was making his debut on the south coast as Forest secured their only away win of the season. Replacing Morgan Gibbs-White in the 71st minute, Scarpa instantly showed glimpses which had previously got Palmeiras fans off their seats for years. His ability to switch the play effortlessly immediately saw fans take note and understand why he was brought to the club.
A second outing in a dismal 4-1 away performance to Blackpool was a far cry from his usual surroundings - and although it was an embarrassing display, Scarpa was the only player to come away with any kind of credit.
The Brazilian then played 54 minutes in Forest’s vital home win over Leicester, before coming on with his fellow ex-teammate Danilo to rescue a point against Bournemouth. Despite the cold winter months, Scarpa appeared to be enjoying his trips to the coast.
Off field issues and a new role
However, back-to-back displays against Man United in the EFL cup, as well as a disappointing 2-0 defeat in the capital to Fulham would be the final matches Scarpa would start a game under Steve Cooper.
A bizarre cryptocurrency scam saw Scarpa return to Brazil, and although he had the backing of Forest in front of the media, his decision to leave the country didn’t sit well with some fans due to where the club were in the league. His final competitive game of the season came at Elland Road, where Forest threw away a 1-0 goal lead to lose 2-1 and at the time, looked as though it might be the final nail in the coffin for their short stay back in the top flight. However, Forest bounced back and secured their status in the Premier League - although Scarpa had to watch his teammates from the sidelines due to a calf injury which kept him out for the remainder of the season.
This was the first time in his career he hadn’t managed to register a goal within the campaign.
He can’t be entirely blamed for this. Scarpa only played in his natural position once during his 10 appearances and even that came away to Man United at Old Trafford in a heavily rotated side. His most natural position is CAM, behind the striker in a 4-5-1 formation. This has been a preferred formation from Palmeiras’ Abel Ferreira for years, and one in which Cooper had opted for more often than not - a potential reason as to why the transfer made even more sense, especially on a free.
Yet due to the signing of Morgan Gibbs-White, Scarpa was forced out wide - a position where he’s not best utilised, despite being left-footed. It’s also fair to point out Scarpa has been part of a team who have dominated football for the past few seasons. At Palmeiras, he was often the playmaker, which is why his assist tally was the highest in 2022 domestically as well as in the cup.
Now playing in a team, which, while he was fit and involved, was massively underperforming due to an incredible amount of injuries. Dealing with a completely new “defensive” role, while adapting to a new country and having effectively been burnt out from the 2022 Brazilian campaign, any criticism thrown his way feels a little unjust.
Forest’s Brazilians last year were loved on and off the pitch, yet Scarpa must be the only one left frustrated with how his first season ended personally.
No second chances for Scarpa
Featuring in pre-season, it looked as though Scarpa would be playing second fiddle to Morgan Gibbs-White when fit. The England U21 international was no doubt one of the stars of the season last year, but it’s impossible for him to feature week in, week out. Despite this, it looks as though Cooper wants an alternative back up to be brought in before the window slams shut.
Scarpa’s exit seemed all but confirmed when he missed out on a place on the bench to Lewis O’Brien, who spent last year on loan at DC United. For Scarpa to miss out to a player who couldn’t break into the 25 man squad last year, the writing seemed to be on the wall for the Brazilian.
Scarpa made the bold decision to test himself in Europe. Looking back now, it’s one he may end up regretting, despite an opportunity to showcase his talent in Piraeus. If and when his move to Olympiacos is confirmed, it’ll always be a case of “what could have been” for the former Serie A player of the year.