Ricky van Wolfswinkel's Sporting Lisbon deserve Norwich City's sympathy
PUBLISHED: 10:46 12 April 2013 | UPDATED: 17:41 12 April 2013
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Concluding his three-part analysis, Michael Bailey gets the verdict on Norwich City's record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel from fans on both sides of the Lisbon divide.
While those at Carrow Road probably have to pinch themselves that a club toiling in League One just three years ago can buy one of Europe’s brightest young strikers, it’s worth sparing a thought for the supporters on the other side of the deal.
After all, City fans have plenty of past – if not recent – experience of being on the end of preying football clubs and their superior financial clout.
As one of Europe’s great clubs, 107 years in the making and a regular feature in European competition, Sporting’s season has really hurt.
Watching their city rivals Benfica perform with swagger and style in the Champions League, Europa League and now dominating the Primeira Liga only makes it worse.
In history, it was the red side of Lisbon that embodied the working class of the city. Sporting are known as the aristocrats – the green and yellow Clube de Sporting founded by departed Eagles seeking better working conditions.
So the irony is not lost that Benfica are managing their situation just fine; the odd, well negotiated £20m player sale keeping the outgoings in balance.
Meanwhile, Sporting battle boardroom and managerial changes, while owing £222m to all manner of banks and third parties after years of overspending and mismanagement. And as always, it’s the fans who suffer most.
The departure of Ricky van Wolfswinkel to Norwich for a hurried, cut-price £8.5m is only the latest in a series of blows that leave some at Alvalade demoralised, others angry, the rest hoping for better ahead.
“In my own opinion I think it is all from the owners, who are always from some important bank and they grab Sporting and hire players that are very expensive without promoting our players in the academy,” said Sporting fan Joao Botelho.
“We hire a player for €5m and it’s a lot of money that we have borrowed and then they don’t play, while all the players from the academy, when they play they succeed. They are good players and every Sporting fan can see they are better players.”
Hugo Goncalves joins his wife and two daughters at Sporting games, but wishes the story could be different for his football club.
“I am very sad and very angry,” he said. “Ricky is a very professional guy and gives his all for the team. He helps much the team to win.
“It is a very difficult time for Sporting. The fans are very sad to see Ricky van Wolfswinkel leave.
“It is a very good deal for Norwich. It would be a very good deal for any team. It is a sale price and it is unfortunate for Sporting to sell for that amount of money.”
Thyago Rocha travelled all the way from Brazil to catch his team in action against Moreirense on Saturday night – and the Lions delivered a 3-2 win thanks to Argentine substitute Valentin Viola’s injury-time header.
But he couldn’t help share his frustrating at Norwich’s cut-price deal.
“It’s too cheap for him,” he added. “Sporting is losing money and Ricky is under his true value, so I think it is very cheap. It is not good business for us; I think €30m-€40m (£34m) is more fair for him.
“If I was to see Ricky I’d tell him to make sure he calms down! To keep his feet on the ground and not worry about what people will say about him, and their opinions. Just play your football. He will be great.”
And if there’s one thing Sporting fans know about, it’s great players.
The roll call of those developed through Sporting’s famed academy and into their first team is something special: Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Nani, Joao Moutinho to name a few.
“Here it is a very tough crowd,” said Tomás Saraiva. “Ronaldo and Figo were here so we are used to world class players. And when a player comes here and doesn’t do his work, and when we pay a lot for them and they don’t respond, it’s frustrating because here in the Portuguese league the budget is not even close to the Premier League budget.
“I think Norwich made a great deal. They won’t find any other scorer like Ricky for €10m (£8.5m) in the world that can go there and score 20 goals.
“He will do very good. They play fast in England with open spaces, and he’s really good at finding those spaces and scoring with them. He’s very good when he receives the ball at speed and has to shoot with a first touch.
“I think he will score 15, maybe 20 goals for Norwich in the Premier League. I know it’s a really difficult league but I think he will make it.”