Ryan Gauld, the much coveted Scottish teenager, has signed for Portuguese giants Sporting. Gauld earned the nickname ‘Mini Messi’ for his performances with Dundee United last season, and has been linked with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid, to name but a few.
€60m release fee
Gauld’s acquisition was confirmed on Wednesday morning, with Sporting having paid a reported £3 million in order to recruit the 18-year-old from the SPL club. In a move to ward off any potential suitors, Sporting have negotiated a €60 million release clause in the midfielder’s six-year deal.
The youngster scored eight times and provided six assists, four of which came in only one game, during his maiden full campaign as a professional. This quickly established Gauld as the hottest property in Scotland.
Manchester United bid
Manchester United, at that time under the command of David Moyes, were reported to have made a formal approach for Gauld last season, while Liverpool were credited with serious interest of their own in bringing him to Anfield. But Dundee United were able to tie the player to a new deal.
Arsenal were naturally also placed as contenders given Arsene Wenger’s eye for spotting younger players, although it would appear the Gunners lacked as much intent as their Premier League rivals.
A risk worth taking?
Whether or not Manchester United reignited their interest in Gauld this summer remains to be seen, but Sporting have emerged triumphant regardless. But will the 20-time English champions live to regret missing out on the player?
£3 million is certainly a sizeable amount for an 18-year-old with only one year as a professional to his name, and there is always a significant element of risk attached to signing a relative unknown. However, it is hardly a considerable investment on a player clearly with bags of potential.
Manchester United were prepared to pay almost £30 million for Luke Shaw on the basis that he will become one of the world’s elite performers. Shaw, of course, is a player far more established than Gauld and there a no doubts about the left-back’s abilities, but an outlay 10 times greater than that paid for young Scot is notable at the very least.
Watch: Ryan Gauld best skills
Another James Rodriguez?
Could Manchester United have another James Rodriguez on their hands? The club had the opportunity to sign Rodriguez, then aged 18, for a fee of £5 million four years ago.
Sir Alex Ferguson passed on this opportunity, failing to even respond to the player’s representatives, and went on to sign Bebe that same summer, despite never having watched the Portuguese forward play.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, secured a transfer to Porto where he excelled, before earning a transfer to Monaco and, of course, starring for Colombia at this World Cup.
Gauld now makes the first move of his burgeoning career, like Rodriguez leaving home for Portugal, and will go through the same tuition process as Luis Figo, Luis Nani and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo - three esteemed Sporting graduates.
Will he one day move to Manchester United? Perhaps, but maybe he should already be there.