By Cameron Deacon – UK Football Writer
On the 2nd of July 2014, an 18-year-old Ryan Gauld stood in front of pictures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo as he shook hands with the President of Portuguese side Sporting CP. He had just finished his 3rd season as a Professional Footballer at Dundee United having made 31 appearances and scoring 8 goals having only just turned 18.
Gauld was making waves in Scottish football and was quickly becoming one of the most promising young Scottish talents in a generation. It was reported in 2013 that fellow Scot and Manchester United manager David Moyes was very interested in the Tannadice teen and wanted to come and take a look at him personally whilst also looking at a one Andrew Robertson, he never signed either.
Having broken through the Dundee United youth academy at only 16 it was never going to be long before drawing attention to himself. Very quickly Ryan was touted as the “Mini Messi” a funny nickname at the time and an incredible amount of praise for such a young lad but as Gauld has mentioned in the past, even the nickname bares its own weight. With such a nickname, pre-conception of the player is immediate. You expect close control, long dribbles, incredible vision, and bags of goals. When in fact what you would see is a young lad, inexperienced, still growing and with weight on his back. Whether conscious or unconscious that weight was always going to be there. And yet not only was this weight on a nickname but also it was now the expectancy of a nation. Every fan of every country is looking for the next Mbappe and when they potentially emerge, every move they make is watched with expecting eyes. So, when he made his fated move to Sporting that mass of eyes grew ever larger.
Gauld’s first year at Sporting went about as well as it possibly could’ve done. He was never going to become a first team regular with Sporting’s midfield home to a host of stars like Adrien Silva, Joao Mario, and William Carvalho. Instead he played alongside Spurs and England star Eric Dier in the Sporting B side, who play their football in the Portuguese second Division. So, he was still playing at a good, competitive level against Men not other youth players and got to continue his growth. He made 31 appearances for Sporting in his first season, five of those coming in the first team, becoming a regular in the Taca de Liga cup competition where he made three full appearances, scoring two goals.
Unfortunately, after two seasons at the club, despite becoming a B team regular (making 38 appearances in 2015-16) strides towards the first team began to look unlikely and Gauld wasn’t staying young forever. The following three season would be a nightmare for Gauld, he was sent on loan at three different Portuguese sides, was hindered repeatedly by injury and was never allowed the opportunity to settle. Ironically, Gauld’s time as a Sporting player came to an end back in Scotland. Another loan, this time to the Scottish capital with Hibernian. Gauld would go on to only play 370 minutes for Hibs after a hamstring injury called an end to his season in early 2019.
After five seasons with Sporting, Gauld’s contract was up and now he had to make the biggest decision of his life. Where next? He has lived in Portugal now for five years, but he needs first team football. So committed to the cause and in his own words ‘Unfinished business and a point to prove’ Gauld stayed in Portugal and went back to S.C. Farense, a side he had been on loan at in the Portuguese second tier, and became a permanent player for the 19-20 season.
This season has really been a rejuvenation for Ryan, he has played constantly, managed his longest streak without injury and scored more goals than he ever has in a season. He helped Farense to a historic 2nd place finish when COVID-19 brought an end to the season, giving the club their first ever promotion to the Primeira Liga. Then to top it all off after a vote from all the Coaches and Captains at every club in the league, Ryan Gauld was named the ‘LigaPro player of the season.’
Ryan has made the perfect choice for his career; he did not run back home for more money instead he stayed in a country whereby his own admittance he prefers the style of play. Maybe in the early years Ryan was pushed and pulled by the media and maybe he felt that pressure, to the point where it looked as though his career could’ve been over so soon. But now more mature, playing regularly, away from media attention and in topflight football in one of Europe’s top leagues once again, Ryan Gauld is more than ready to make his comeback. He wasn’t touted so highly for no reason, he has the skill a real class and talent to his game and with his confidence at its highest in years, the 2020-21 season could be where Ryan Gauld really shines.