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Sporting Lisbon make offer for Ryan Gauld

EVERYTHING is in place for Ryan Gauld to fulfil his undoubted potential at Sporting Lisbon.

Dundee United could earn £3m if Ryan Gauld signs for Sporting Lisbon

The Primeira Liga side, that finished second to Benfica in last season's championship, have 100,000 club members, a five-star ground in the Jose Alvalade Stadium and a world-renowned training centre in the suburb of Alcochete.

The Academia Sporting, built in 2002 in a private, rural location around 30 minutes from Lisbon Airport, is the base for all squads from under-13s to the first team and offers 250,000 square metres of ground in which to eat, sleep and breathe the game.

Having put together an offer for Gauld which starts around the £2m mark and could rise to something closer to £3m, there is clearly no shortage of finance there either.

Jackie McNamara, the Dundee United manager, has already stated that the gifted 18-year-old is "light-years ahead of most players with his balance and vision". With such facilities and support at his disposal, there would be little to stop him from becoming the player so many of his coaches and contemporaries have long predicted.

There is a cautionary word, though, from one of the Tannadice club's former sons, another who left Tayside to move abroad and develop his career, as Gauld goes deep into negotiations with the Portuguese club over a life-changing transfer.

Craig Brewster walked away from United in 1996 to take advantage of the Bosman Ruling and try his luck in Greece with Ionikos. He helped take them to a cup final, a top five place in the league table and into the UEFA Cup. By the time he returned to Scotland to join Hibernian five years later, he was a different player and a different person.

That had little to do with facilities, though. Ionikos certainly did not have a state-of-the-art training centre with bedrooms, dining halls, cinemas and an artificial lake.

What Brewster did have on his side, though, was an unflinching determination to absorb the local culture, learn the language, earn the respect of his colleagues and embrace everything thrown his way by his coaches.

Attitude was an integral part of his success. Rather than the pristine surfaces Gauld will find under his feet in Portugal, Brewster believes it is what is going on between his ears that will determine how well-prepared the youngster is to make a name for himself abroad at such a tender age.

"When I did my Pro Licence, one or two of the other guys went to Sporting and came back raving about it," said Brewster. "Ryan has the chance to go to a club with a fantastic set up and I am sure they will look after him extremely well. It is a good climate and the style of the game will suit him, too. It is a wonderful opportunity for him and a real chance to experience life while developing his career.

"Football takes care of itself wherever you are in the world, though. The massive thing is how you adapt off the pitch. It is what will make or break you.

"I had a fabulous five years in Greece, but Ionikos did not have great facilities. I was 29 when I went there, so I was at a good age. I wasn't naive enough to be diverted by missing my mates or anything like that. Ryan is considerably younger.

"Around the same time as I went abroad, John Collins thrived in France at Monaco, while Paul Lambert won the Champions League at Borussia Dortmund. But they were both at a good age when they left Scotland.

"You have to be completely single-minded if you move abroad, but you have to be that way to perform at the top of any discipline. You need tunnel vision and you need to want to make it happen. Forget about missing your mates, missing home, and deal with the culture, lifestyle and the language.

"I went to Greece and tried to put myself in their shoes. I didn't want to be living a British lifestyle. I tried to be very much part of their team and they appreciated that. After five years, I would say I was about 75% fluent with the language and Greek is very difficult to learn."

Brewster spent more than eight years playing part-time before signing on a full professional contract, aged 26, at United. That may have been a factor in him continuing to pull on the boots until the age of 40.

However, the former forward insists that he picked up habits during his time in Greece that allowed him to make the very most of his career. Coached at Ionikos by Oleg Blokhin, the all-time top goalscorer for the Soviet Union and Dynamo Kiev and the European footballer of the year in 1975, he learned how to play up front on his own and developed an entirely new sense of game intelligence.

"I learned so much on and off the field from going abroad," said Brewster. "One big thing was how the players looked after themselves and I think that helped lengthen my career. I met the Ionikos squad in Germany that first summer and we were having three sessions a day.

"As a manager, I brought that kind of ethos to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the players bought into the fact you have to be in the best physical shape you possibly can."

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