A 16-year-old Ryan Gauld was dubbed a “Mini Messi”, but things did not exactly go to plan when he made the move to the Portuguese capital in 2014.
The Messi comparisons arose when Gauld broke into the Dundee United side at just 16 years of age back in 2012. Two years on, Sporting CP came calling and, upon buying the young midfielder for a fee in the region of £3 million, they also entered a release clause of around £60 million into his contract.
A big European outfit like Sporting swooping in for Gauld led to massive expectations being placed on him back in the United Kingdom, but his time in Lisbon did not get off to the easiest of starts.
It is fair to say that Gauld had his work cut out: Sporting’s midfield at the time was made up of Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, João Mário, all three of whom helped Portugal to win the 2016 European Championships. It is therefore somewhat unsurprising that he spent the vast majority of his time at the club either in the B-team or out on loan, both in Portugal and back in Scotland.
Gauld later alluded to his discontent with the way in which he was treated by the club during his time there, using the example of his loan spell at Vitória Setúbal in 2016/17 being cut short due to a disagreement between the two clubs. The result of this was the young midfielder simply being dropped straight back into the B-team.
Fast forward to 2019 and Gauld had just one year left on his Sporting contract, but he was determined not to throw in the towel on his time on the Iberian peninsula. With that he decided to move to second-tier side Farense, where he had previously spent time on loan, on a two-year deal.
Although his first season as a Farense player was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, Gauld guided his side to their first promotion to Portugal’s top tier for 18 years, which came as they were pronounced runners-up when the season was terminated last May.
Gauld, who plays on either side as a left-footed wide midfielder, ended the season as Farense’s top goalscorer and was also awarded the LigaPro player of the season for 2019/20. These exploits have made him a fan favourite at the club, and he has since been handed the captain’s armband.
The Scotsman seems to be reacting well to this added responsibility, and so far he has eight goals and six assists to his name in the league this campaign – the latest of which was a glorious ball in for Pedro to head home in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Portimonense.
He feels that he is now more of a “complete player” than when he left Sporting, and has also said that one of the keys to his consistent performances has been the lack of injuries disrupting his rhythm, as he rarely managed to put together a run of games without being plagued by injury before his move to Faro.
Farense, who currently sit second-bottom of the Primeira Liga, will need their captain to continue his impressive form if they are to remain in the top flight next season. With five games to play, they are four points from safety.
At the age of 25, Gauld has not yet lived up to the hype surrounding him during his younger years – but he is certainly on the right path now.
With Scotland having qualified for this summer’s European Championships, and with Gauld yet to make his senior debut for his country, could a strong end to the season with Farense see him in with a shout of a call-up?