Lion City Sailors sign Rio Ave's Lopes in landmark S$2.9m transfer
The Lion City Sailors have created history again, this time smashing the Singapore Premier League (SPL) transfer-fee record with the signing of midfielder Diego Lopes from Portuguese top-flight side Rio Ave for 1.8 million euros (S$2.9m).
The Sailors, who became the first privatised SPL club just last year and whose football academy was the first to be given a one-star rating by the Asian Football Confederation, have their sights set on honours on all fronts this year.
The acquisition of Lopes on a three-year deal will be key to their targets.
The previous transfer record of $50,000 was set when former national striker Fazrul Nawaz moved to Hougang United from Tampines Rovers in 2018.
Lopes came through the Palmeiras and Benfica youth systems, before moving to Rio Ave, where the goalscoring midfielder mustered 25 goals across seven seasons and helped the Primeira Liga side to the Portuguese Cup final in 2014.
Said the 26-year-old Brazilian: "I am delighted to join the Sailors' project to become one of the top teams in Asia.
"It was not an easy decision for me to leave Rio Ave... I felt like the time was right for a new challenge in my career... I look forward to being part of a team that consistently challenges for honours not only in Singapore, but also in Asian competitions."
The Sailors also unveiled 32-year-old centre-back Jorge Fellipe, who joined from Saudi Arabia second-tier side Al-Tai on a one-year deal.
Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar, who has the likes of last season's top scorer Stipe Plazibat, Player of the Year Gabriel Quak, and 2019 Player of the Year Faris Ramli at his disposal, believes both Lopes and Fellipe will give the Sailors the push the team need to achieve silverware.
"We wanted top-quality players with excellent technical ability and who were comfortable with playing a possession-based game," said Vidmar, whose side finished third last season. - NARENDAREN KARNAGERAN