It's Oliveira's job to show Farke he can be reintegrated at City
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With Nelson Oliveira set to stay with Norwich City until January, David Freezer assesses whether the striker can return to first team contention for the Canaries.
Imagine this. It’s Tuesday, September 25 and Norwich City are drawing 1-1 with League One side Wycombe Wanderers with 30 minutes remaining of their Carabao Cup third round tie.
Warming up on the sidelines is the club’s highest scoring current player and Portugal international Nelson Oliveira, emerging from the shadows desperately hoping he can get his meandering career back on track.
A couple of weeks ago it was a situation that seemed almost impossible, that the 27-year-old would play again under Daniel Farke.
Today it seems almost inevitable though. More than that, it’s potentially a situation which has to happen if the Canaries are going to resolve a costly problem.
Oliveira has not played a game of football for four months, since City’s final game of last season, a 5-1 thrashing at Sheffield Wednesday.
Before kick-off at Hillsborough it looked likely the Portuguese was heading for a fresh start in the summer, as the forward department clearly needed rejuvenation if Farke was to improve his team’s prospects during 2018-19.
Subsequently the signings of Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes made it clear the Canaries were moving in a new direction and Oliveira wasn’t involved at all in any of City’s eight pre-season matches.
The former Benfica and Deportivo man wasn’t named on the bench and did not travel to Germany, unlike the similarly out-of-favour Russell Martin, who at least went abroad with Matt Gill’s under-23 squad and played to get his fitness up to scratch.
Oliveira continued to train with Farke’s squad but on the eve of the new campaign sporting director Stuart Webber admitted the striker was likely to leave.
“We spoke at the end of the season and agreed it might be best for all of us if his future lies elsewhere,” Webber said.
“We then had the same conversation when he came back in and I was honest with him and said ‘we can’t wait until the end of the window to replace you’.
“He said ‘of course, you have to do what’s right for Norwich, I’m grateful for the opportunity you gave me, you paid a lot of money for me, you’ve paid me a lot’.
“That’s when we signed Teemu (Pukki) and Jordan (Rhodes). We always agreed that he wouldn’t play the games in pre-season because it would be about the boys who are going to be here but then the door is always open.”
However, no move has materialised and with transfer windows across all the major European leagues now believed to have closed – with official transfer deadlines from Fifa muddying the waters slightly – it seems Oliveira remains a City player until January.
So can he be reintegrated into the City squad? He of course has the ability. A year ago he was on the shortlist for City’s player of the month having scored three goals in five games.
However, a barren streak of just one goal in the last 22 games of the campaign saw him finish with eight goals from 40 matches – to miss out on Portugal’s World Cup squad.
Back to our imaginary Wycombe scenario, though, with Oliveira waiting on the sidelines at Adams Park and City needing a goal to ensure progress into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
What an asset to have: a player previously linked with Premier League interest in the region of £12m, a striker with 20 goals in 46 starts for Norwich, who has played – and scored – in the Champions League and who has 17 caps for the reigning European champions.
But from there it is down to the player. Make an impact and earn another chance, then any head coach is going to welcome having another attacking asset.
To earn Farke’s trust will take effort from Oliveira though. Bridges need to be built, by a player who too often last season threw his arms around in frustration as City’s tactics failed to bring quality chances his way consistently.
By a player who disrespected the Canaries boss on his first day in the job, ripping his shirt off and waving it angrily at the head coach at Craven Cottage on the first day of last season – for having the temerity to put him on as a substitute so that he could score a valuable equaliser.
How about this for an imaginary scenario to finish on then? Come on, score and run to Farke to thank him, showing self-deprecation in a nod to that Fulham faux pas.
Do that and Oliveira – one of City’s highest earners, under contract until 2020 – can once again be the main man.
Or he can sit and mope until January, hoping that someone else wants him when the transfer window reopens.