It turns out Scottish football couldn’t hold on to ‘Baby Messi’ for long. Ryan Gauld was snapped up by Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon for £3 million in July and with a release clause of €60 million in his contract it is clear he is held in the highest regard by his new club.
Sporting have a rich history of producing world class talent, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo the highest profile products of their famous academy. Ryan Gauld certainly has the potential to follow in their footsteps and become a truly world class footballer. By all accounts he has settled in to life in Portugal well and the club president believes he will be a first team regular in two or three years. He’s already been included in the squad for this season’s Champions League although Sporting are very much among the outside teams with outlets such as Betfair.
Quick to adapt
It should not be underestimated how difficult a move to a foreign country can be for someone so young. He has to adapt to a new language, culture, weather, style of football, get to know his teammates and build relationships inside and outside the club. His footballing ability will shine through in the end but we shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
The former Dundee United starlet has mainly been playing for the B team of Sporting this season, scoring once in six appearances so far. He can’t be far away from a first team call up considering he has been added to their Champions League squad. That makes him the only Scot who can play in Europe’s premier club competition this season.
A step up
Playing with better players at a higher level of competition can only be a good thing for gifted young players like Gauld. It is unlikely he will play much part in Sporting’s Champions League campaign this season, but just the opportunity to learn from the best players at the club will be invaluable for the young man.
When Gauld makes his first foray in to the Sporting first team, there are bound to be calls for him to go straight in to Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad. While that is clearly not a ridiculous idea, it makes more sense to allow him to develop further before playing regular games for the national team.
He has already had a hugely positive impact in the Under-21 side, with coach Billy Stark comparing his presence in the side to that of Cristiano Ronaldo’s when he plays for Portugal. That shows the ability this player has is up there with the best of them, as Stark is a pretty shrewd judge of talent and it only echoes the sentiments of every player, manager or coach who has worked with Gauld.
The brightest of futures
Touted as a future ‘British great’ by Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara, 18-year-old Gauld is mature beyond his years and will undoubtedly be a pivotal player for Scotland in years to come. With a decent depth of midfield talent currently available for the national team, it would be good to see him develop further at Sporting and in the Scotland under-21’s before being thrown in to Strachan’s starting eleven.
Ryan Gauld will do a great job for Scotland in the future. Considering the strain a move to a foreign country has on a young man and that he is not yet playing regular first team football, it would be unwise to put too much pressure on this slip of a lad too soon. The Tartan Army will have plenty of years cheering Gauld on and he could be the man that helps lead the Scots to the next World Cup as long as he is given time.
The diminutive young Gauld briefly showed us that skill and guile are just as valuable attributes as muscle and brawn in the Scottish game and he appears to have everything required to go all the way to the top. Hopefully he will be allowed to progress and flourish in Portugal before he becomes a regular in the national team.