Born in Bicas in 1991, Danilo started at Belo Horizonte-based side America Mineiro when he was 12, and working his way through the Club’s youth system winning the Campeonato Brasileno de Serie C (third tier) title before joining Santos in 2010. Full name Danilo Luiz da Silva, he was reportedly “inseperabale” from Neymar at Santos, and scored the decisive goal from central midfield in the 2-1 win against Penarol in the 2011 Copa Libertadores final. Porto decided to splash out 13m euros for Danilo in January 2012, and at the time was the club’s second most expensive signing ever. He won the Under-20 World Cup with Brazil in 2011, and was part of the Brazil team that won the silver medal at London 2012. Danilo was given his full Brazil debut in 2011 against Argentina.
After dazzling for Santos, many European teams took notice. Porto snapped up the 20-year-old during the 2012 January transfer window. Signed along with Alex Sandro, another highly-rated defender, Danilo played understudy to Cristian Săpunaru in his beginnings, but soon became first-choice for the Vítor Pereira-led side and has been a fixture since. In his three seasons with Porto, Danilo won two Portuguese league titles and a Portuguese Super Cup. Danilo was playing with confidence, he covered acres of space and hardly gave the ball away. His crosses used to reach their intended target more often than not, and his knack for popping up with a goal now and again always came in handy. He made 139 appearances for Porto scoring 13 times. During his last season at Porto he was the highest scoring defender in the Portuguese top flight, managing 6 goals from 29 encounters. He also found the back of the net on one occasion in the Champions League.. Real Madrid were in the market for Carvajal’s backup, and Danilo seemed the right fit.
He cost Real Madrid around 31.5 million euros specially due to the interest from their rivals Barcelona, and like every big signing, he was under the microscope from the first day. Coach Rafa Benitez preferred the Brazilian over Carvajal, the club graduate. Danilo still needed time to adjust as he looked rather ordinary in most of the matches he played. Attackers could shake him off with ease, and tactically, he was all over the place. Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu was a harsh night for all Madrid players, but for Danilo, it was beyond hell. The fans called him Dañino(harmful), they wanted him to be shipped off immediately. This trend continued for the rest of the season. Those boos and jeers weren’t helping his case, he lacked confidence, and that showed on the pitch. Makeshift fullback, Nacho took charge when Carvajal was out with an injury or suspension, Danilo was forced to warm the bench. However, his moment of redemption came, and it came on the grandest stage of club football, the final of the Champions League. Dani Carvajal was forced to come off against Atletico early in the match and Danilo stepped up to fill his shoes. His tackle on Antoine Griezmann in the 99th minute perhaps saved the match for Real Madrid, as they went on to win the title through penalties. His second season started the same way, he made sporadic appearances and more often than not, lacked conviction. His own goal against Celta Vigo knocked Real out of the Copa Del Rey, and the jeers became louder again. Zidane, however, still had faith in the Brazilian.
Zidane gave him multiple starts in the second half of the season, and he was more than decent in all of them. His final two months in a Real Madrid shirt were probably his happiest. Zinedine Zidane trusted him to play in a few key La Liga and Champions League matches, in some cases to rest Carvajal, in others right after the starting full-back had suffered another injury that threatened to keep him out of the Champions League final. During those two months, Danilo did not excel but delivered the bare minimum that was needed for the club to get the required results in those matches. Still, the Brazilian showed remarkable mental strength to play at the Bernabeu, where a sizable amount of spectators were ready to boo him if he made a mistake. Being the type that can’t go unnoticed for a full match, he compensated for his errors with subsequent good plays, ran tirelessly and showed his motivation in every second he stayed on the pitch. He never got anywhere near Carvajal’s level, but he did not disappoint Zidane and covered well for the canterano. Danilo did more for his reputation in those final weeks of the season than in the previous 20 months. In all truth, his self-belief looks bigger than his actual capabilities on the pitch, and great football careers have been made based on that kind of mental attitude.
Danilo’s Style of Play and how he will fit in at Man City
The simplest explanation for Manchester City signing Danilo even though they already have Kyle Walker on their books is that they only have Kyle Walker on their books. In terms of right-backs, last season’s duo of faded club legend Pablo Zabaleta and just faded Bacary Sagna have both departed the club. So often last season, City struggled to break sides down and cope with defending the counter-attack because they had no production from their full-back spots. The overlap (essential to the Guardiola playbook) wasn’t a possibility and this put too much burden onto City’s midfielders and forwards to create everything. Walker was a fantastic signing to fill that hole, but with no back-up there would be a huge chance that he would burn out come seasons end. Walker thrived at Spurs in part because Mauricio Pochettino was willing to give him rest on numerous occasions. So City have simply brought in Danilo to do the same thing for them; he will be a supremely talented back-up that will stop Walker being overburdened. Of course another possibility is that Pep Guardiola intends to make use of Danilo’s versatility. Lost amid the noise of his failure at Real Madrid is that Danilo was a tremendous prospect.
Part of the same Santos side that starred Neymar and Alex Sandro, Danilo was the right-back as the side romped to win the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Interestingly though, in the first leg he played as a central midfielder and helped Santos pull off an impressive draw. When you consider Danilo’s skill-set, it makes sense. Here’s a wing-back who is perfectly comfortable on the ball and offers an approximation of what Dani Alves does in terms of match control. His struggles at Real Madrid could be attributed to being a system player thrust into a side entirely free of system. After all, he thrived at Santos and again at Porto, especially under Julen Lopetegui. Pep Guardiola has shown before that he can turn full-backs into defensive midfielders (and vice versa) e.g. Philipp Lahm, and the success of Fabinho at Monaco shows it’s not just a Guardiola thing. So perhaps Pep is looking to address another area of weakness by moving Danilo to play defensive midfield behind Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva/Bernardo Silva? Danilo has the skill-set to play there, the ball-skills needed to cope with the frenetic movement all around. He also has the thrust to be a younger version of Fernandinho, a player for whom Guardiola has expressed profound admiration – not just sweeping up attacks but driving forward and pushing City onto the front foot, adding verticality to a side of playmakers.
We also like to end this article with a skills video of him in 2017.