Profile: Dinamo Zagreb full-back Ivo Pinto could prove to be a bargain for Norwich City
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As links with Ivo Pinto persist for Norwich City, David Freezer finds out more about the Zagreb full-back.
Ivo Pinto may not be a household name in England but his impressive CV suggests that may soon change if the Portuguese full-back does join Norwich City.
When speculation about Pinto's arrival first emerged, there were few Canaries fans aware of the Dinamo Zagreb defender's talents.
Yet the 25-year-old – who could become the first Portuguese player to play for City – has regularly played Champions League and Europa League football in recent seasons, and has been on the fringes of the Portugal squad.
If Pinto's career continues on its current upward curve then Norwich could well have discovered an excellent Premier League asset.
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Ivo Daniel Ferreira Mendonça Pinto is originally from the parish of Lourosa in northern Portugal, south of Porto, and celebrates his 26th birthday tomorrow.
He developed as a youth player with top-flight sides Boavista and Porto but had to go out on loan to lower league teams to get game-time.
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The defender then signed permanently for another Primeira Liga club, Rio Ave, when his contract expired in 2011 but was immediately loaned to União Leiria.
Pinto finally started playing regularly, at the age of 21, but the team suffered relegation to the second tier at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.
That prompted a move to Romanian champions CFR Cluj – where several Portuguese players were already making names for themselves – bringing his first experience of the Champions League.
He started all six of Cluj's group games, beating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford and Braga twice, as well as drawing 1-1 at Galatasaray. That meant narrowly missing out on qualification and dropping in to the Europa League, where they were knocked out by Inter Milan.
A move to Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb followed in 2013, with Pinto reportedly signing a four-year deal after a fee of around €5million was agreed.
Pinto's career continued on an upward curve as he helped Zagreb to win the title again in 2014 and 2015, also playing regularly in the Europa League, including a 4-3 home win against Celtic in December 2014.
According to the player's official website – ivopinto.com – his first season in Croatia was an overwhelming success.
'The first season in Croatia couldn't have been better,' the website's biography section says.
'Playing in 43 official games, Ivo Pinto was national champion and an essential element in this conquest with decisive passes to goal.
'The Croatian fans were delighted with his talent and the readers of the website Tribina.hr elected him the best right-back in the league.
'In the middle of the season, the Sportske Novosti, the only sportive paper in Croatia, considered the Portuguese one of the best five foreigners playing in the country.'
Zagreb returned to the Champions League this season, finishing bottom of Group F. Pinto started three of Dinamo's group matches: a 2-1 home defeat of Arsenal, a 3-0 away loss to the Gunners and a 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich.
Pinto has also represented Portugal at youth levels, from under-16 through to under-21 and has been selected for the senior squad, although he is yet to earn his first cap.
In October 2014 Pinto was named in Fernando Santos' first squad as Portugal head coach, for a friendly against France and a Euro 2016 qualifying clash with Denmark.
He was an unused substitute for those games and has not since returned to the international fold but will hope the profile of the Premier League will boost his chances of making it to this summer's tournament – where Portugal are in Group F alongside Iceland, Hungary and Austria.
It is an impressive career to date and with Norwich reportedly set to pay around £2.2m for Pinto's services, Alex Neil could just have found the sort of bargain which Premier League managers are striving for.