Cabral, or to give him his Sunday name, Adilson Taveres Varela, is not someone most Sunderland fans would have known a lot about before his bosman move to Wearside this summer.
A little internet browsing will tell you he was born in Cape Verde but represented Switzerland at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels before declaring himself for the country of his birth at senior international level. He is yet to obtain his first full international cap.
Cabral started his club career at FC Lausanne-Sport in Switzerland before moving to FC Basel in 2007. He has spent his entire career in Switzerland other than a season loan with Sevilla Atletico, the reserve team of Spanish club Sevilla. After returning to Basel he went on to win just 5 Swiss League titles and the Swiss Cup 3 times. Canny record! It was incidentally his short stint in Spain which he pinpoints as the route of his success;
“This year in Spain has changed me. Before leaving, I tend to do the show, I did not know what a healthy lifestyle is, it was going out, friends, bogus excuses to miss a workout. But when you're young and you got the money ... I do not know anything. My laundry, I was bringing my mother in Moudon. In Seville, I found myself alone in a country that lived football, which breathed football. When I returned to my studio, I said hello, and the only answer I heard was the echo of my voice. I was only one point that I cried. But I get it if I wanted to succeed, I had to live football as a religion.”
Although the Swiss league isn’t the most competitive, Cabral does also boast a lot of Europa League (20 appearances) and Champions League (19 appearances) experience. It all sounds pretty positive but it doesn‘t give us the information we really want to know…. but here at We Are Wearside, we spoke to Sven, a lifelong Basel fan and part of the Football Club Social Alliance (more info below), to find out what every Sunderland fan needs to know about our new signing.
WAW: Cabral is an unknown player for the majority of Sunderland fans - can you give us an idea of what we can expect?
Sven: For me it’s easy to say that Sunderland has made a good signing with Cabral. He has improved a lot over the last 4 years with Basel, especially last season. He was particularly good in the Europa League games against Zenit and Tottenham. Although he’s still very young he brings a lot of experience to the team. He has enormous fighting spirit which was the key to his time with Basel. He is very clever with his positional play and can destroy the game of an opponent with one simple tackle or steal. With Cabral you will get a very loyal, calm, thoughtful and reliable player.
WAW: What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Sven: He’s a guy who is always ready when you need him with a very solid performance consistency. Cabral is a hardworking and efficient player; playing simple, straightforward and unspectacular football. Technically and creatively he is lacking but manages to make up for this with his willingness to fight, tackle and do the ’’dirty job’’. He is certainly more focused on defence than attack and will play the short pass rather than an opening pass to launch an attack.
WAW: Do you think he will be suited to the English game?
Sven: Cabral is a tough guy to beat, that’s for sure, so physically he’s definitely suited to the English game. His ability to tackle in the right moment, his willingness to win every ball and every game all point towards him being a success in England. However, he still has room for improvement in his offensive play. Nevertheless, in my opinion he will be suited to English game. He is used to playing strong sides like Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and more importantly he knows what it takes to beat those sides. If he manages to improve his offensive skills it could even become difficult to keep him at Sunderland AFC.
WAW: Initial reports suggest he is primarily a defensive midfielder, others suggested he is a competent central defender - what is his best position and how versatile is he?
Sven: He’s not very versatile at all. Cabral is a defensive midfielder and this is where he mostly played at Basel. He’s very comfortable in this role and you can see he enjoys it. In emergencies he has played central defender a couple of times, there’s not much to say about those games except that he’s clearly not made to play in this position.
WAW: Can you tell us any specific memories or stories you have of Cabral’s time at Basel?
Sven: The one memory I will always have when thinking about Cabral is his goal against AS Roma in the Champions League group stage 2010/2011. That goal gave us hope of surviving the group stage and our local radio commentator celebrated it like a maniac. For the record: those kinds of rushes aren’t commonplace for Cabral, you won’t see it often. Besides this goal I will remember Cabral for his amazing sliding tackles and his ability to just sweep everything and everyone away.
WAW: Is there any information you can give on his life outside football?
Sven: He is the cousin of naturalized Swiss footballer Gelson Fernandes who used to play for Manchester City. Besides this there’s very little information about his life outside football. There was never any stories or scandals about Cabral. I guess you can say he’s a very decent and humble bloke, who concentrates on playing football and not on being in the spotlight.
WAW: Are the FC Basel fans sad to see him go?
Sven: Yes, most of them are. We are going to miss his ability to keep the area in front of the central defenders clear and his willingness to keep the ball as far away from the box as possible.
Of course we all wish him the best of luck! Everyone’s extremely thankful for what he’s done for the club. As a fan of Premier League football and a regular viewer of MOTD I’m already excited to see how Cabral will do with his new team.
WAW: Finally, do you think this is a good signing for Sunderland?
Yes, definitely. I think Sunderland is a good club for Cabral and Cabral a good player for Sunderland. He needs to get his chances to play and he’ll get that at Sunderland. With all due respect to for your club, I think Sunderland needs some improvement, especially in the defensive area for next season. Cabral could be (I’m sure he will be) the man to help you improve your game.
As with all our new signings (so far), only time will tell if Cabral can adapt to the Premier League but with the information Sven kindly offered it does sound as though this could be success story, especially with time on his side to keep improving. He clearly has the work ethic, with his position constantly threatened by competition at FC Basel such is the depth of their midfield talent. I will leave you with a quote to reflect perhaps why he always ends up on the team sheet.
“I always want to win. I play in a big club alongside many international. So I have to prove to the coach Thorsten Fink, every day in training, I deserve to play. And overall I'm happy with my game time but I also developed a taste for titles and I wish to celebrate at least one in May at the end of the season.”
About The Football Club Social Alliance
The Football Club Social Alliance is a network of European professional football clubs, who work together to make a contribution to the education of young people in crisis and development regions. It also promotes disability football. This partnership programme is developed and administrated by the Scort Foundation. To date FC Basel 1893, SV WerderBremen, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, FK Austria Vienna and QPR are official and permanent members.
In Europe the Alliance organises a football and summer camp for youths with a mental / physical disability. Besides the permanent members this year’s camp will also be supported by Everton and Manchester City. Since 2010, the instructors of the Alliance clubs conduct a coaching education programme for young people with or without disabilities. Upon completing the training modules, the participants become active as coaches or assistants in disability football activities.
To find out more about the Alliance, visit: