Fábio Coentrão yesterday completed his transfer to Sporting, signing a one-season loan contract from Real Madrid.
In a similar move to the deal that brought Nani to Alvalade from Manchester United three years ago, his parent club will be picking up most of Coentrão’s wages. The Spanish giants are reported to be footing between 75% and 90% of his salary, although the exact details have not been released.
The arrival of Coentrão completes a busy week in the transfer market for Sporting, with the Lisbon club also signing Portugal U21 captain Bruno Fernandes and Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia, as well as having Barcelona centre-back Jérémy Mathieu training at the club on a trial basis.
Footballers in Portugal are reporting for work as their clubs begin their pre-season schedules, with Sporting having significantly bolstered their squad as they attempt to end a 15-year barren spell without winning the Primeira Liga.
Earlier in the summer the Lions secured Italian right-back Cristiano Piccini and Brazilian midfielder Mattheus Oliveira, but it is the latest trio of signings that will most excite Sporting fans.
There is no doubting the pedigree of Coentrão, Doumbia and Fernandes, although the first two can be considered high risk. Coentrão was widely touted as one of the best left-backs in the world after his stunning performances for Portugal in the 2010 World Cup and for Benfica, and he was subsequently sold to Real Madrid for €30 million.
But bad luck with injuries combined with the majestic form of Brazilian Marcelo prevented the winger-turned defender from making his mark at the Bernabeu. In five seasons in the Spanish capital he made 106 appearances for the current Champions League holders in all competitions. He was also loaned to Monaco in 2015/16, playing 19 times for the French club, before that spell was cut short by injury. Indeed, worryingly for Sporting fans, Coentrão has been badly afflicted by injuries in recent times, playing only 25 matches in the last two seasons. The player himself will highly motivated to overcome his fitness problems as he attempts to get back into the reckoning for Portugal ahead of next summer’s World Cup.
The move triggered a stormy reaction on Social Media, with the left-back having stated in the past that he would only return to Portugal if it was with his former club Benfica. The torrent of abuse sent his way by Eagles fans only increased when he declared on Sporting’s in-house TV channel that: “I have worn many shirts, but I was always made of Sporting.”
The club’s official twitter account subsequently used the phrase in hashtag form, showing Coentrão in a Sporting shirt with the message “Fábio Coentrão looks so good in green and white!”
As for Doumbia, the speedy Ivorian striker has been a prolific goalscorer throughout his career, averaging more than a goal every two games (188 goals in 326 matches). He was particularly lethal in the Russian and Swiss leagues, and last season scored 21 goals in 33 matches for FC Basel. But counting against him is the fact he failed to make an impact when he tried higher standard leagues, proving a flop for AS Roma in Italy and Newcastle in England, and at 29 years of age some analysts have criticised Sporting’s investment, saying his career is on a downward trajectory.
Fernandes pens long-term deal
While only time will tell if Coentrão and Doumbia will prove big assets for Sporting, there are fewer doubts surrounding the wisdom of the capture of Bruno Fernandes on a 5-year contract for €8.5m. The stylish 22-year-old has established himself as a high-quality performer in Italy over five seasons at Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria and has only flown somewhat under the radar because of the host of exciting homegrown midfield talents that have emerged in recent years at Portugal’s biggest domestic clubs.
Even so, Fernandes has performed admirably for Portugal’s U21 team, wearing the captain’s armband at the Euro 2017 tournament in Poland, and he has legitimate hopes of being included in Fernando Santos’s squad at next year’s World Cup. Whether or not Fernandes makes the plane to Russia will evidently depend on him enjoying a productive season at Sporting and the likelihood of that happening would increase if rumours surrounding the sale of club captain Adrien Silva, who plays in the same central midfield position, came to fruition.
Rivals biding their time
Benfica and Porto have so far made more headlines for their sales rather than their purchases, with Ederson, Victor Lindelöf and André Silva all offloaded in exchange for huge transfer fees.
As for the incomers, Benfica’s capture of Swiss striker Haris Seferovic is the only significant capture thus far by the clubs that finished 1st and 2nd last season, so it would not be a surprise to see some new faces arrive at the Estádio da Luz and Estádio do Dragão in the coming weeks.
The fixture list for the 2017/18 season is released tomorrow, 7 July.
by Tom Kundert