ISL 2017: NorthEast United sign Sambinha from Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon
After weeks of speculation, NorthEast United have finally secured their first signing of the summer in the form of Guinea-Bissau centre-back Sambinha. He joins from Portuguese top-flight outfit Sporting Lisbon, where he played for the club's B team.
A statement on Sporting's official website read: "Sporting CP has reached an agreement with North East United Football Club for the definitive transfer of the player Sambinha.
"Sporting Clube de Portugal - Futebol, SAD announces that it has reached an agreement with North East United Football Club for the definitive transfer of the player Sambinha, with Sporting SAD holding 50% of the athlete's pass.
"Sporting SAD wishes Sambinha the greatest personal and professional happiness."
It is believed that it was NorthEast's new head coach Joao de Deus played a key role in persuading the Portuguese club to let Sambinha leave. The versatile player, who can also fill in at defensive midfield, had a contract with Sporting until next summer but NorthEast have apparently bought 50 percent of the player's rights to trigger the transfer.
Sambinha will join the likes of Nirmal Chettri, Robert Lalthlamuana, Reagan Singh and Abdul Hakku in the Highlanders' back line and is expected to partner Robert in central defence.
He has also represented the Guinea-Bissau national team on multiple occasions after making his debut in 2015 and last played at Sporting Covilla on loan from Sporting Lisbon's B team. The defender, who started out at Esperanças Alcoitão, has also played at 1º Dezembro and MLS club New England Revolution. He has been on the books of Sporting since 2013 but has spent the majority of his time at other clubs on loan.
His stint at NorthEast will be his first outside Europe and the USA. While De Deus' presence in the Highlanders' setup will be a comforting sight for Sambinha, he has only two months to settle in at his new club before the 2017-18 ISL campaign kicks off on 17th November. After what has transpired so far in the transfer window for NorthEast and their fans, the news of Sambinha's signing must have come as a big relief.