Ricky van Wolfswinkel's transfer to Norwich City is a move that adds up for all parties
PUBLISHED: 10:22 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 17:40 12 April 2013
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In the second of this three-part analysis, Michael Bailey gets the inside verdict from Portugal on Norwich City's record summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
The season has been far from a quiet one for the Sporting Lisbon press pack. New manager, new president, a deep financial crisis and reams of copy involving a certain Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
It started off as speculation with a host of English clubs interested in his services. As recently as January, Newcastle United were thought to be readying a bid to land the Lions’ prized asset.
Then there is Sporting’s over-reliance on their number nine for goals – goals that have ultimately ensured Alvalade can still aim for a Europa League berth rather than anything more unpalatable from their Primeira Liga campaign.
And it soon moved on to RVW’s £8.5m Norwich City departure, agreed in March and to be completed in the summer.
The transfer itself was no real surprise for the journalists. Having written the length and breadth of Sporting’s financial crisis from years of spending beyond their means, the forced sale of major assets was as inevitable as it was desperate.
Indeed, there may be plenty more where that comes from judging by press suggestions a few of Van Wolfswinkel’s team-mates will follow his lead – possibly to England.
But that can wait. For now, there is still plenty more Ricky van Wolfswinkel talk left in the Portuguese press – as proven by story after story in the country’s daily sportspapers.
“The move was a little bit of a surprise because even if Norwich is in the Premier League, Sporting is a big club – one of the biggest in Portugal,” said TSF Radio correspondent David Carvalho – no relation to Dani, he assured me.
“But if the club needs money, they have to sell the best players – which is the case with Ricky. They have to pay the wages and solve the problems created in the last few years.
“I believe €10m (£8.5m) is a fair price, why not. Maybe if he stayed here at Sporting for a bit longer with a different context, say playing for the title, improved his skills, then maybe he would be worth €15m.
“He has a big margin to improve. He is very young and he scores goals – and that in the context right now that Sporting is living one of, maybe the worst moment in its 107-year history.
“It has been difficult to score goals here; the leading striker in Portugal has more or less the same goals as all of Sporting in the Primeira Liga.”
To continue the financial theme, it is something of a football rule that goals cost money – and not just fees and transfer deals.
The new television deal set to envelope the Premier League next season will give its clubs spending power only a few across Europe can compete with. They are new riches that led to January tabloid speculation Norwich were willing to pay Gary Hooper £30,000 per week to move to Carrow Road.
It may be Van Wolfswinkel’s terms are short of that. But still, given the top earners at Benfica and Porto pocket just short of £33,000 per week – and Sporting don’t pay at that level – it seems likely RVW’s current earnings of a reported £12,000 per week will get a healthy nudge north.
Naturally, the cost is worth it if the goals come. Sporting’s big issue will be getting in a replacement.
“There is no one in the squad who can replace Ricky at this time and even next season, so it is a big loss for Sporting,” said Pedro Soares, Sporting correspondent for Benfica-supporting daily, A Bola.
“English football is a little bit different to Portuguese football so I believe that Ricky will not have an easy adaptation.
“He has played two seasons here in Portugal and has an average of 20 goals per season. That’s a good average for here. I don’t know if he can reach that in his first season at Norwich, but I think he will be a good acquisition for Norwich.
“He has improved here. The Portuguese championship is more demanding than the Dutch championship. Here the defenders are more on top of the forwards. They don’t give them so much space as in the Netherlands. So here Ricky has learned how to play with his adversaries really close to him.
“That obliges him to think faster, to move faster, to act faster. So I think that is a good learning for his next move and his big step that will be to the Premier League.
“Sometimes here at Sporting he has been criticised this season but he plays a little bit alone in Sporting’s attack. Playing with two strikers could help Ricky to score even more goals than here in Sporting.
“There’s another curiosity that Sporting doesn’t have many players who score goals besides Ricky, and all the pressure is always on his shoulders. So if you talk about pressure when he moves to England, I think here he has already learned what it is like to play with a lot of pressure. And even now the fans already know he is leaving, there is a big responsibility on his shoulders because he has to keep scoring – and he gave a big lesson (of that) in Braga with his hat-trick.”
Carvalho added: “For me, the Premier League is the best league in the world and it will be tough for him.
“Premier League players play more, they work more and they train to play. It is the natural order of things for him to move there.
“I think he has one problem. Sometimes when he gets the ball, at first he doesn’t get control. He loses too many balls. But the main point in his game is he gets ahead of defenders and scores.
“He is a very calm kid – and he is a kid, but a good kid I think. There are no problems about that.”