Melbourne City sign forward once voted Brazil’s best after serious injury to Socceroo

Melbourne City have signed Leo Natel on loan from Brazilian giants Corinthians after Andrew Nabbout suffered a potentially season-ending injury.

Nabbout sustained an Achilles injury in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week and he is now expected to miss the entire 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League campaign.

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As a result, the three-time reigning premiers have brought in Natel on a season-long loan deal.

The 26-year-old Brazilian has made 55 appearances and scored four goals since joining Corinthians in 2020, though he has spent time on loan at Cypriot outfit APOEL Nicosia and Portugal’s Casa Pia in recent seasons.

Leo Natel in action against Diego and Flamengo in Brazil.


“Leo will provide us with an ideal replacement for Andy. He brings direct pace, strength, has the technical qualities to go 1v1 and can press very well,” said City’s director of football Michael Petrillo as City prepare for next week’s AFC Champions League opener against Ventforet Kofu.

“He can play on either the right or the left, which will provide a great wide option alongside Marin Jakolis and Mathew Leckie upon his return.

“Leo also has had previous experience playing as a striker, further adding to our depth in the
front third.”

Natel came through the academy of Portuguese juggernaut Benfica.

Born in Porto Alegre, he travelled to Portugal to spend some time on trial at Belenenses but he caught the attention of Benfica.

For a year between 2014 and 2015, Natel only trained with the club’s youth team as he did not have a contract ,before signing a five-year deal.

During his time at Benfica, he played alongside Renato Sanches, Ruben Dias and Jota in the Under-19 team.

In 2016, Natel was loaned to the academy club of powerhouse Sao Paulo, where he was voted as the best player in the U20 competition. He went on to make his debut for Rogerio Ceni’s senior team the following year before completing a permanent move for a €135,000 ($A222,795) transfer fee.

Leo Natel playing for Sao Paulo.

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After loan spells at Fortaleza and APOEL, he moved to Corinthians in 2020 and in his first season he played alongside the likes of Jo, Luan and Gil as the club finished runners-up in the Campeonato Paulista.

Natel, who scored 14 goals and supplied six assists for APOEL during his 2021-22 loan spell, added: “I’m really excited to be joining Melbourne City and I look forward to meeting my teammates and getting started.

“There has been lots of success at this club in recent years, so I can’t wait to be a part of that environment and hope to help the team win more silverware this season.

“I’m looking forward to getting on the pitch and meeting the fans at our first game in Melbourne.”

It has been an off-season of change for City following their 6-1 rout at the hands of Central Coast Mariners in the Grand Final.

Jordan Bos (KVV Westerlo)Scott Jamieson (retirement)Valon Berisha (end of loan), Raphael Borges Rodrigues (Macarthur FC), Matthew Sutton (Western United), Kerrin Stokes (Adelaide City), Tom Glover (Middlesbrough)Aiden O’Neill (Standard Liege)Thomas Lam (PEC Zwolle), Richard van der Venne (St Gallen)Florin Berenguer (Brisbane Roar) and Marco Tilio (Celtic) have all left.

City, meanwhile, have signed Tolgay Arslan (Udinese)Alessandro Lopane (Western Sydney Wanderers), Patrick Beach (Central Coast Mariners), Zane Schreiber (Sydney FC)Steven Ugarkovic (Wellington Phoenix), Jamie Young (Western United)Terry Antonis (Western Sydney Wanderers)Samuel Souprayen (Botev Plovdiv)Marin Jakolis (Angers – on loan), Aziz Behich (Dundee United) and Hamza Sakhi (Auxurre – loan with option to buy).