The New England Revolution today signed 23 year old central defender Mamadu Samba Candé, better known to all of you as “Sambinha” from Sporting Clube de Portugal, with whom they formed a partnership several years ago. Sambinha is the first player to move from Sporting to the Revolution under this arrangement. There is, as the saying goes, a lot to “unpack” here.
First of all, this is not the Designated Player that the club announced having signed a pre-contract agreement with earlier in the week. That player’s identity will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Second, Sambinha has been signed on loan for the 2016 MLS season with the option of a permanent move to be discussed at the end of the season. Or, put another way, if he has a “middling” season the Revs will probably be able to sign him if they want to, but if he shines, Sporting will either take him back or ask the Revs to pay through the nose for him.
Third, I suspect that he has been allowed to go out on loan because he has been with the club since the 2013-2014 season (after two seasons with Third Division side Dezembro) without managing a single appearance for the first team. He has played over 70 matches for Sporting’s B team- and is currently its captain- but that still hasn’t been enough. He hasn’t even been given a seat on the bench during cup matches, and that is usually where players around the fringe of the first team get their chances. In short, at 23 and with over two seasons with the club, they probably want one more look at him before they bring him into the first team or cut him loose.
Fourth, while he was born in Portugal, Sambinha and is as the club said, an international player…he’s not an international player for Portugal. The Revolution press release says that he has played four times for Guinea-Bissau, but I can only confirm two of those appearances- perhaps the others were “friendlies?” In any case Guinea-Bissau have a current FIFA ranking of (147 of out 209) so I’m not going to pin my hopes on the young man’s potential for success on his international status.
Fifth, however Sambinha does for the Revolution the credit/blame will begin and end with coach Jay Heaps and general manager Mike Burns, who watched him in training and Second Division matches during their recent trip to Portugal. According to Burns, “Sambinha is a big, strong center back who impressed both myself and Jay during our recent trip to Lisbon…he will be able to help strengthen our defense and we are grateful to be able to work with Sporting in order to add a player of his quality to our roster for the upcoming season.” So there you go.
Sixth, and I end here on a positive note, the presence of Jose Goncalves at the club and on the back line should help Sambinha adjust on the field, and the presence of a large Lusophone (Portuguese, Brazilian, Cape Verdean, etc.) community in New England should help him to adjust off the field. Hopefully both of those factors will pave the way to his making an immediate impact for the Revolution.