St. Mirren have this week signed Portuguese striker Esmael Goncalves on a six-month loan from Rio Ave. Goncalves has featured intermittently for the Portuguese outfit this season, having only made eight appearances.
Last season Goncalves was playing in France for Ligue One side OGC Nice. The youngster had a few impressive moments – in particular scoring the winner in a 4-3 victory over Lyon on the final day of the season. But Goncalves chose to return to Portugal with Rio Ave at the start of this season in order to be closer to his family.
However, he has failed to get as many first-team opportunities for the Portuguese top-flight club – who have themselves just signed Bebe of Manchester United on a short-term loan deal – as he did in France.
Goncalves seems to be a very impressive signing for St. Mirren, he started out his career in the Boavista youth academy before his move to Nice. And despite being born in Guinea-Bissau, he was considered to be such a talent in his younger days that he was chosen to play for the Portuguese under-17 team.
Despite his progress having stalled somewhat in the past six months, he is still considered to be an important future prospect for Rio Ave. It was their Scottish assistant manager Ian Cathro who helped broker the deal and Goncalves said in an interview with the media that: “Ian told me a lot about Scottish football and said I had to get away and play games, score goals and return to Portugal a better player. He believes I have a future in Portugal.”
The chance to have a player who is on the fringes of a Portuguese club that is challenging for a European place in their league is an exciting one for St. Mirren.
It was also reported that his old club Nice were interested in a loan move for the player. But Danny Lennon has said that he is delighted to have signed him and has also suggested that Goncalves may play some part in Sunday’s League Cup Semi-Final against Celtic.
As mentioned before, Goncalves is the second loanee to come from one of Europe’s top leagues to the Saints this month after Conor Newton was signed from Newcastle at the start of the window. The midfielder has already made his debut for the Saints starting in their 4-1 defeat to Ross County last week.
These two players will add some much-needed strength and depth to the squad.
However, St. Mirren have still to replace Newton’s Newcastle teammate Paul Dummett who returned to his parent club after an impressive loan spell. The left-back was immediately brought into Newcastle’s first-team squad for a cup match against Brighton and put in a good performance despite his side’s loss.
St. Mirren are trying their hardest to re-sign Dummett, but unless they secure him or bring in a replacement they will not have a left-back in their squad for the second-half of the season. Winger Graham Carey is currently deputising there and David Barron could also be used.
But the club will have some serious defensive issues in the next few months, if a new player isn’t acquired as Carey is not a natural defender and they only have five other defenders in the squad.