FORMER Sporting Lisbon manager Paulo Sergio insists Ryan Gauld is on his way to becoming a first-team star for his old club after the Scottish teenager made his league debut on Sunday night.
The one-time Hearts boss has been keeping tabs on Gauld since he made the £3 million switch from Dundee United to Portugal last summer and saw the 19-year-old make an impression from the bench in the 4-2 win over Rio Ave.
Gauld was introduced in the 65th minute and was involved when Joao Mario added a third goal two minutes later after the Aberdeen-born player’s cheeky nutmeg set up up former Manchester United winger Nani to cross.
After initially being farmed out to Sporting’s B side, the hard work is starting to pay off for Gauld after he also started the recent League Cup wins over Vitoria Guimaraes and Boavista.
Through his friendship with current Sporting coach Marco Silva, Sergio, who guided Hearts to a 5-1 Scottish Cup final thrashing of rivals Hibs in 2012, also knows that everyone at the Estadio Jose Alvalade is very excited about Gauld’s potential.
Sergio said: “I watched the game and although Ryan didn’t have much time, he did well.
“He showed good personality, character and he had influence in the third goal also.
“He’s done a good job in the B team and now he’s starting to come into the first team.
“I know Sporting’s coach very well and I know that he has great expectations. Ryan has to be patient and keep doing his work because everybody believes, in the near future, he will become a regular player for the first team.
“It’s a very good sign for him that he made his first appearance in the league. It appears to me that the work he is doing is going well.”
As manger of Portuguese top-flight club Academica, Sergio’s team could come up against Gauld during the second half of the season. And Sergio reckons the decision to send the playmaker out to Sporting’s B side is now paying dividends.
He added: “Nobody should think that because Ryan is playing in the second team that it’s not good for him.
“At his age, I believe it’s the right step because he has the possibility of playing every week. He will be playing lots of games and, at his age, it’s important he is playing regularly.
“You need lots of games. It will help him develop his skills and his time will come because he is very young, he has a lot of talent and he has a football brain, everyone can see that.
“It’s a natural process for Ryan for him to become an important player.”