Sporting Lisbon have sealed the signing of Dundee United youngster Ryan Gauld, who secures a six-year contract and transfer fee worth £3 million for the Scottish club, reported by Alex Richards of the Mirror.
The Terrors confirmed Gauld's departure on their website:
Subject to the usual formalities, Dundee United confirm the transfer of Ryan Gauld to Sporting Lisbon, for an undisclosed fee, was completed last night. Everyone at the Club wishes Ryan sincere best wishes in his future career.
Popular Liga Sagres freelance writer Jan Hagen highlighted the impressiveness of such a deal, revealing Gauld's buyout clause and the rarity of Sporting's decision to spend on an 18-year-old:
Official: Sporting have signed Dundee United's 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gauld. 6-year deal. €60m release clause. pic.twitter.com/qwfbKFg5KV— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) July 2, 2014
Gauld's transfer goes against the advice of SFA performance director Mark Wotte, who previously suggested it would be "ridiculous" for the developing talent to sign for an elite club after his breakout season at Tannadice Park.
Wotte indicated it would be most beneficial for Gauld to continue improving in Scotland before moving to a top English club, a limiting route taken by many starlets across Britain.
Instead, the speedy winger has opted to further his game away from the limits of the Scottish Premier League. Gauld made 21 starts and 10 substitute appearances in the domestic division during 2013-14, scoring six goals in the process. Although afforded 90 minutes just four times, he still managed to make an impact with confidence and incision on the ball.
Indeed, Brian Marjoribanks of the Daily Mail reports Real Madrid, Roma, Arsenal and Manchester United were hovering around the player who is known as "Baby Messi" by the teammates he leaves behind. Gauld's transfer is sure to surprise many, but not only because English Premier League clubs seem to have let a future star slip through their grasp.
Will Ryan Gauld progress to be a world superstar?
British youngsters rarely receive the opportunity to further their skills on European shores. Gauld joins versatile English defender Eric Dier in Lisbon, a 20-year-old player who has been with the club since 2003. Despite securing a loan to Everton in 2011, Dier remains in the Portuguese capital.
Perhaps the most famous example of a homegrown talent choosing to move abroad in recent times is Dale Jennings, who spent two seasons with Bayern Munich's second team. Despite only being 21 now, Jennings wasn't destined to break through the Allianz Arena ranks and headed to Barnsley in 2013, before committing to a loan spell with Milton Keynes Dons.
Gauld will be hoping to have plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Sporting have a rich history of producing world-class wide players, with individuals such as Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani coming through the ranks across the past couple of decades. With the right dedication and effort, there's no reason why Gauld's name can't be known across the globe.
Jackie McNamara, Gauld's boss at Dundee, called Sporting's offer "life-changing" for the player he has begrudgingly let leave. While Gauld is unlikely to consistently feature in the first team during his opening campaign, he may receive the opportunity to play in the Champions League next year.
Sporting have undoubtedly tied up a smart, cheap and low-risk deal for the individual who could stand to earn the Portuguese club a huge payday somewhere down the line.