Sporting Lisbon has a good reputation of producing players from their youth system, with Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Miguel Veloso probably the most notable of these.
Manchester United have a good relationship with the club, forking out substantial transfer fees for Ronaldo and Nani in recent years.
So, what are we to think of Sporting winger Fabio Paim making a move to Chelsea?
With United and Sporting doing business in the past, holding friendlies even before the signing of Ronaldo, it would be safe to assume that top talent from their club would be coming United’s way. However, the relationship between clubs was strained somewhat when rumours mounted linking us to Veloso, with the Sporting president having a pop at Carlos Queiroz, who has since left our club.
“We have a good relationship with Sporting Lisbon and we do not want it destroyed,” said Ferguson after the incident. “But what the president has said is totally unfair. We are not interested in him and we never have been. But our relationship with Sporting Lisbon has been very good for five years now. We approached them about Cristiano Ronaldo, we sat down and we did a deal. We did the same with Nani.”
So, are Sporting punishing us for this by giving away one of their talented players to our title rivals? Fortunately, probably not.
The 20-year-old has spent the past two years on loan at three different lower league Portuguese clubs. A few years ago he was tipped to be ‘the next big thing’ but has failed to deliver on that potential.
“It is a surprise, I was not expecting anything,” said Paim. “I have no words to describe it. It is an unbelievable thing, it is a very important step and undoubtedly the greatest of my career.”
Whilst Paim could prove to be a quality player, like those coming before him from the Sporting youth system, the fact that he’s barely had a game for Sporting suggests they don’t rate him as highly as some might. Ronaldo had played in more games for the club’s first team whilst he was still a teenager than Paim has at 20-years-old, with Nani being a solid feature in the first team when he was Paim’s age.
I’d also imagine that following the money we have already invested in Sporting’s youth products, they wouldn’t want to upset us and jeopardise future opportunities to make money off us by loaning a player to one of our rivals.
So, I wouldn’t worry that the team posing the biggest threat to our title have signed the next Ronaldo or Nani just yet!