David Freezer: Pinto's exit another sign that Canaries are moving on
PUBLISHED: 08:00 12 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:21 12 January 2019
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So it seems the end is near for former captain Ivo Pinto as a Norwich City player, as the remnants of the costly January transfer window of three years ago are dealt with.
The right-back has always come across as a thoroughly nice guy, with a great attitude, but that was not enough to mask his deficiencies as a defender for me.
Pinto’s social media cries of being ready for a ‘pitch war’ to the ‘yellow army’ ensured popularity remained among City supporters but he came to symbolise the collapse of the David McNally and Alex Neil era for many others.
To think that Pinto was the right-back identified as the man to improve the Canaries in January 2016, when relegation was still a very real possibility, points to a scouting network which wasn’t fit for the Premier League.
Signed from Dinamo Zagreb for around £2.5million as City looked to find an upgrade on Steven Whittaker, the speedy former Portugal international was part of a significant transfer outlay in the region of £25million that month, to try and ensure Neil’s team didn’t slip backwards.
Home wins over Aston Villa and Southampton had moved Norwich onto 23 points from 20 games, six clear of the drop zone and in a fine position to stabilise in the top flight. Of course we all know, that didn’t quite go to plan.
Pinto had been playing against Arsenal and Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stages earlier that season, playing all of a 2-1 home win over the Gunners in the group stages for Croatia’s dominant side, and looked a decent signing on paper.
He was brought in ahead of the £7.5m arrival of Timm Klose from Wolfsburg, the completion of a prolonged chase for Steven Naismith from Everton for around £8.5m, Matt Jarvis’s loan being made permanent from West Ham for around £2.5m – despite injury issues – and Patrick Bamford coming in on loan from Chelsea.
Klose clearly turned out to be the standout player of that group and if the Switzerland international hadn’t injured his knee at Crystal Palace in early April, I still think City would have stayed up that season.
It should also be pointed out that two rather decent signings were made with an eye on the future that month, James Maddison and Ben Godfrey. Fair play on that front.
Clearly not all transfers work out but there was a warning sign with Pinto when I spoke to Zagreb-based reporter Aleksandar Holiga to get the inside track on City’s new man. The reporter told me “I wouldn’t say he’s particularly highly rated” and that he “hasn’t really established himself as a fan favourite” – which wasn’t really the kind of positive line I was expecting for a player stepping into the Premier League.
Holiga also spoke of Pinto’s pace and having hopes of making the Portugal squad for Euro 2016 but the following assessment couldn’t have been more spot on.
“He’s definitely an attacking full-back,” he said. “Although, curiously, he has never scored for Dinamo, he does look rather dangerous storming down the flank, overlapping with the winger and crossing the ball into the box.
“On the other hand, his defensive play leaves a lot to be desired. He often fails to close down players or doesn’t return on time from his forward runs.”
Three goals and 95 appearances later, I can’t imagine many City fans would disagree as Turkey beckons, with reports of a move to Ankaragücü and Daniel Farke confirming an exit is close.
I speculated aloud to colleagues Michael and Paddy, as Pinto was taken off during the League Cup loss at Bournemouth in October, whether it would be his last game.
Having not been near the Championship team since the 3-0 loss to Leeds in August, it was hardly a leap of faith. Other than featuring as an unused substitute recently amid an injury crisis, that has proved to be the case.
It’s been a sad fall from grace from being captain last season, seeing midfielder Harrison Reed edge ahead of him at right-back under Farke during the latter stages of last season.
I’m sure all Canaries fans will wish Pinto well in the future, it’s just that all that enthusiasm and speed never translated into being sound enough in defence or having enough end product in attack.
With Felix Passlack showing he’s capable of providing cover for Max Aarons in the FA Cup last weekend, it makes sense to let the former Zagreb man move on before his contract expires.
With Jarvis and Naismith also gone, the remnants of that 2016 transfer window are almost cleared. It’s time to ensure Pinto’s Portuguese pal Nelson Oliveira is on his way as well now – and potentially free up some wages to add one last bit of quality for a promotion push before the month is out.
• Hot prospects
Emi Buendia’s injury absence has been frustrating for Norwich City in recent weeks but his Championship impact has also been noticed outside Norfolk.
The 22-year-old was included in a list of ‘the best young players in the Championship this season’ in a Guardian blog in association with stats website WhoScored.com this week.
WhoScored calculate their own match ratings and have Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, on loan at Aston Villa, top of their list with an average of 7.40 out of 10, after 16 goals in 20 games. Second was Harvey Barnes, who had been on loan at West Brom from Leicester until yesterday, at 7.24 and third was City’s Argentine starlet Buendia on 7.18.
It’s not a definitive metric of course but it’s fine company for a £1.5million signing from Getafe to keep, ahead of players being linked with mega-money moves, including Brentford striker Neal Maupay (fourth on 7.11) and Hull forward Jarrod Bowen (fifth on 7.10). So it’s great that Emi’s fit again ahead of schedule for City.
• Oh dear, Adrian
While Canaries fans have been thrilled to hear of Leicester recalling West Brom’s star man Harvey Barnes ahead of today’s game – it was quite the opposite for BBC Radio Five Live presenter Adrian Chiles.
The Baggies supporter heard the news during a sports bulletin on his show yesterday and soon had a face like thunder, moaning: “I feel like putting a black armband on and playing the funeral march, because Leicester City have gone and flipping well recalled Harvey Barnes!
“So if you’re challenging for promotion in the Championship, and you’re not West Brom, this is a flipping good day for you because he was often the difference for us. Just quick and skilful, you’re heart was full of hope when he got the ball and now he’s been ripped away from us.
“I don’t need to hear about this in a bulletin when I’m on air in the studio, I need someone to take me aside off-air and break it to me very gently (massive sigh).”