Bitello: A Diamond Amongst The Rough

Ever since Arsenal acquired their first Brazilian player in Sylvinho back in 1999, the country has proven to be a source of great players for the Gunners such as Gilberto Silva and Edu. Though there have been a few recent duds in Willian, Julio Baptista and Andre Santos, the Premier League club under now sporting director Edu have recently unearthed Brazilian gems such as Gabriel Martinelli.


This is why it came as no surprise when news came in recent days that Arsenal had sent scouts to watch Gremio midfielder Bitello. But who is the 23-year-old that has also garnered interest from Monaco?


Well, if there is one word to describe Bitello it would be graft, as the Brazilian has worked extremely hard to reach where he is. Signing from FC Cascavel as a 17-year-old in 2018, where he would initially stay on loan for a few months, Bitello progressed to Gremio’s youth team in 2019. Paradoxically, it took Gremio’s shock relegation to Brazil’s second tier of domestic football (Serie B) in December 2021 for Bitello’s opportunity to make his mark.


Relegation from the Brasileirão – just four years after winning the Copa Libertadores – was a bitter pill for many fans to take. Relegation meant an exodus of players from Porto Alegre, but also an opportunity for younger players like Bitello to step up. Then manager Roger Machado would promote the youngster to the first team for the state championships, the Campeonato Gaúcho. Bitello would not disappoint, playing a key role in Gremio winning the competition. As Bitello would recollect in an interview with Globo Esporte in August 2022:


The Best Unheralded Goals in World Cup History


Roger was very important. When he arrived, he called me at the hotel to exchange an idea and said he was going to use me in the best possible way and he continued. I think that was the key point there.”


Bitello’s performances in the Gaucho convinced Machado to thrust him into the depths of Serie B by starting him in the league opener in March 2022 – a goalless draw vs Ponte Preta. Lower league football, whether in Europe or South America can be a learning curve, but step by step Bitello grew into the first team and consolidated his place in the starting line-up ahead of more experienced players. Such were his strong performances that just a few months into the Serie B campaign Gremio handed him a three-year contract extension lasting until 2025.


But as the season wore on, Gremio suffered a rut of four league games without a win to drop to fourth with 11 games remaining. A blip heading into the business end of the season cost Machado his job and was replaced by Renato Gaucho for his FOURTH spell at Gremio in early September. Despite the managerial change, Bitello was still looked upon as one of Gremio’s key players and continued to put in a series of eye-catching displays in midfield. Chipping in with seven league goals helped his club win promotion to the Brasileirão at the first time of asking.


What made Bitello’s displays so impressive in Serie B was his dynamism, whether utilised as part of a double pivot, playing higher up in midfield or pushed to the right to showcase his versatility and fluidity. This technical ability to complement his physicality quickly made Bitello a fan favourite at Gremio.


A threat going forward, the midfielder is an excellent dribbler, as well as a crisp hitter of the ball with his right foot, notably from long range – such as his goal against bitter cross-city rivals Internacional. With a knee desire for making well-timed runs into the box, Bitello has scored a few rebound goals by being in the right place at the right time. Despite receiving a red card during the 2022 Serie B season, Bitello’s durability is shown by missing only two league games last year due to suspension.


Farcical Consequences: The 1965 Bundesliga Scandal


Unsurprisingly, his efforts in Gremio’s promotion to the Brasileirão, as well as winning the Campeonato Gaúcho, led to interest from Europe in the youngster. Despite financial pressures, Gremio was keen to keep him and that has proven to be a wise decision.


Bitello’s 2023 season began well, once again being a key component in Gremio winning the 2023 Campeonato Gaúcho, striking up a good combination with Luis Suarez. The midfielder would carry those performances at the state level to the Brasileirão.


Starting every game in the top flight so far this season, Bitello has been key to Gremio’s excellent start in Serie A, as (at the time of writing) they are currently third after 14 games. Manager Renato Gaucho has positioned him either on the right or in an advanced midfield role, scoring three times in the league so far.


The interest from Europe has grown ever louder in recent weeks, especially as Gremio need to sell in order to lessen their wage bill. Bitello recently spoke about a possibility of a move to Brazilian radio station Radio Bandeirantes on June 20th:


My head is clear. I have a contract with Grêmio and I’m training to play the games here. If I see an opportunity and if it is from God, being a good thing, I will analyze it with my managers and with Grêmio to see what is best for me and for them. It’s no use leaving Grêmio for me to go somewhere where I won’t play.”


Playing in Europe would represent a new challenge for Bitello in a new environment where many Brazilians have failed to cope with the move and led to the stunting of their career. However, should he decide to make the move during the summer transfer window, the 23-year-old can make a mark if he chooses the right club that can utilise his strengths to maximum effect.



A diamond forged in the rough and tumble of Brazil’s lower leagues, Bitello can follow the footsteps of previous Grêmio players like Ronaldinho, Lucas Leiva and Alisson to successfully make the jump to Europe.


By: Yousef Teclab / @TeclabYousef

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Fernando Alves – Getty Images