Ryan Gauld feels the time is right to return to Scotland as he bids to follow the likes of John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch and show his talent with Hibernian.
The creative midfielder has signed on loan for Hibs until the end of the season, four-and-a-half years after leaving Dundee United for Sporting Lisbon.
Now 23, Gauld has only made a handful of first-team appearances for Sporting, spending most of his time with the club’s B team and on loan with several other Portuguese sides, most recently second-tier Farense.
Gauld told Hibs TV: “I felt like it was the right time to come back to Scotland and it’s the first time since I left that I’ve felt that.
“Hibs represented the best opportunity for me with the way the team likes to play. It’s the best fit for me.
“In the last couple of years Hibs have taken on a lot of young boys and given them a platform to go and show what they can do with the likes of John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan.
“It’s a great club to play for, one of the biggest in Scotland, and I’m just looking forward to getting started.”
Gauld was much in demand after bursting on to the scene as a teenager at Tannadice, and was determined to broaden his horizons and move abroad.
“I think I’ve learned a lot on and off the pitch in the last few years,” said Gauld, whose Sporting contract expires in the summer of 2020.
“It’s an experience I’m glad I took a chance on and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“I think I’ve come on tactically more than anything. There’s a big emphasis on that side of the game in Portugal. Now I’m back in Scotland and ready to concentrate on playing there.”
Hibs head coach Neil Lennon also believes Gauld has benefited from his time in Portugal.
“Ryan got the chance to learn a new style of football and a new language, amongst other things, and I think he will be all the better for it,” Lennon said.
“Listen, breaking into a team like Sporting Lisbon isn’t easy. Historically they are one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“He’s had the chance to learn about the game, a new country and himself. I think it speaks volumes for Ryan that he had the guts to make that step at a young age instead of taking an easier option. He stuck it out.
“For me, he looks to be coming back as a more rounded player. His knowledge of the Scottish game will stand him in good stead and I hope he’ll be able to hit the ground running but he’s better equipped than he was at 17.
“Tactically Ryan’s very flexible. He can play on the right, the left or off the striker. He can play deeper in midfield if he wants but where we really want to see the best of him is in the final third.
“Ryan’s got good vision and sees things quickly. He’s got good football intelligence and we want to utilise that.”
Gauld joined Lennon’s squad at their winter training camp in Dubai during the week but was unable to play as they wrapped up their seven-day stay with a 1-0 win against local side Al-Wasl last night, because the finishing touches were still being put to the paperwork required to give his move the green light.
Lennon was happy enough with the 90 minutes he saw in the Zabeell Stadium. The game was won by a goal credited to Florian Kamberi although defender Paul Hanlon, who was taken to hospital afterwards to have a head wound stitched, was adamant the Swiss striker didn’t get a touch on his header.
Lennon said: “It was all right. It got some game-time into their legs, which was nice.
“The main thing is they are fit now and we’ll have another week of preparation.”
Ryan Porteous didn’t play but Lennon believes the Scotland Under-21 defender, who has been nursing a knee injury sustained in the 1-1 draw with Livingston, will be fit for next weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against Elgin City.