Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Izmailov for Miguel Lopes - good piece of business?

Inconceivable in Spain, everyday business in Italy or not so unheard of in England, transfers among the top clubs are always a touchy subject in Portugal. According to the latest reports, Sporting's Marat Izmailov and FC Porto's Miguel Lopes are about to switch clubs. While such piece of business does not happen every day, these two clubs have managed to find a way through to each other whenever the need arose - from the Peixe/Costinha and Rui Jorge/Bino transaction to the swap of Hélder Postiga or João Moutinho. Still, the question remains: who stands to benefit from the latest exchange?

  • Izmailov

Izmailov had become a thorn on Sporting's side for some time now. At odds with the club's medical department, the Russian star has made things very hard for him at the club by speaking out against any injustices he perceived were committed against him. Despite being a high-quality player when he was at the top of his game, he never remained there for too long, always unable to consistently deliver the displays to which both he and the fans were looking forward.

In the first two of his six seasons at Sporting, he was often a game-changer, inspiring his team-mates with his amazing skills and flying the team's flag. The quality of his movement and ball skills was beyond reproach and it seemed he was destined for greater things. However, the repeated knee injuries turned him into a shadow of his former self, occasionally chastising the club's directors or medical staff through the papers.

In the seasons that followed, he would restart playing, only to be let down once again by the knee condition, disappearing once more from the team sheet for weeks on end. Every time he played, there were glimpses of the player he was and could be, but that feeling never lasted long, the player going back once again to nurse his injuries.

Lately, it seemed that the Russian winger was cornered at Sporting, no longer able to command the respect of the fans, coaches and team-mates. His loyalty and work ethics had started to come into question and he was no longer viewed as the game-deciding star he was once hailed as. A change could definitely do him good, particularly because at FC Porto he's not likely to be considered the most gifted player on the squad and will probably have to put up a good fight to play.

  • Miguel Lopes

The full-back Miguel Lopes' case could hardly be any more different. Having come through Benfica's ranks as a young player, he ended up promoted to Benfica B, only to see the team disappear in the meantime. He went down a tier and started playing for Portuguese minnows Operário. Rio Ave, then in Portuguese second division, noticed and signed him. Miguel Lopes was critical for the club's promotion to the top tier and he started drawing attention from the three big clubs during the first part of the 2008/09 season. He ended up signing for Porto in January 2009.

While he was not a sure starter with his coaches at FC Porto, he managed to somehow establish himself as a good alternative for both wings during the one and a half season he played with the Dragons. In August 2010, he was loaned out to Bétis (then in the Spanish second division) and once again contributed to his club's promotion to the top league.

The next season, he was once again loaned out, but a clerical mistake on Saragoza's part (for which the club ended up compensating the player) meant that he would be forced to wait until January 2011 for an opportunity to ply his trade elsewhere. That place was Braga, where he impressed on both wings. For that he got the nod from Paulo Bento and was included in the 23-strong team for Euro 2012.

In the current season, the Portuguese managed to get a few starts ahead of Danilo (still trying to find his footing), but he gradually went down in the pecking order and spoke of his dissatisfaction before the Christmas season. His time at FC Porto looked all but over.

  • Conclusion

With the departure of Hulk, Atsu's absence for CAN and Iturbe's intermittence, FC Porto suddenly found themselves with very few options on the wings. Considering that James Rodríguez has just been ruled out for four weeks, Izmailov could just prove to be what the doctor ordered. However, the Russian's signing is pretty much off-character for the northerners, since he is 30 years old, hasn't played that much over the past few seasons, has a serious knee condition and comes with a doubtful track record when it comes to loyalty. Furthermore, the Russian has no resale value. On the other hand, FC Porto give up on an accomplished 26-year-old full-back who could play on both wings and was just starting to make his way into the Portuguese national team.

For Sporting, this can only be considered a victory, since they get rid of a problem that had been consuming them for quite some time and they get some much-needed relief on the payroll. Most importantly, they get in return a quality right-back (preferentially) who can take the heat off the maligned Cédric and make an immediate impact. Miguel Lopes is a player with a bright future ahead of him and, if he keeps being called up to the Selecção, his market value will rise and Sporting might end up making a tidy profit.

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