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Brazilian striker coup shows a club ahead of the curve: MATT BARLOW on how Brentford stole a march on their Premier League rivals to sign a player who scored 18 goals in just two months


Brentford chose St Valentine’s Day to remind us why they have so many secret admirers.

First, the annual accounts were published, with turnover up and profit down but still operating well within their means as they finished ninth, broke the club transfer record three times and saw Ivan Toney capped by England.

Then, the signing of Igor Thiago, a prolific centre forward from Club Bruges, out of the blue in a £31million postscript to a subdued transfer window. Thiago will join Bees in the summer and the replacement will be in the building before the auction for Toney reaches full speed.

‘Ahead of the curve,’ said head coach Thomas Frank, as clubs of this size need to be if they are to defy gravity in the Premier League and as they invariably are, nimble in thought and light on their feet.

It remains to be seen how the 22-year-old Brazilian adapts to English football and gets on next season, but this has all the hallmarks of a classic coup by Brentford owner Matthew Benham and his recruitment team led by director of football Phil Giles and technical director Lee Dykes.

Brentford unveiled the signing of Igor Thiago on Valentine's Day, but he will replace Ivan Toney in the summer

Brentford unveiled the signing of Igor Thiago on Valentine’s Day, but he will replace Ivan Toney in the summer

Thomas Frank said Brentford are 'ahead of the curve' and the transfer has the hallmarks of a classic Brentford coup

Thomas Frank said Brentford are ‘ahead of the curve’ and the transfer has the hallmarks of a classic Brentford coup

They had been in negotiations with Bruges over the possible signing of their teenage winger Antonio Nusa when Thiago produced a festive cascade of goals.

Starting with two against Besiktas in the Europa Conference League, he scored 18 in 12 games across two months, which included a Christmas break. He only failed to score on one appearance and, in the middle, came a searing spell of 11 in six.

Thiago, strong, robust and good in the air, has drawn comparisons to a young Romelu Lukaku. He is not exactly like Toney because his natural instinct is to run behind rather than link up play.

He was sent off for a second yellow card, in the final seconds of the Bruges derby against Cercle on Sunday. 

When the proposed Nusa transfer hit a snag following a medical, Brentford were able to move quickly into an alternative deal.

Their recruitment experts had tracked Thiago out of the second tier of Brazilian football when he left Cruzeiro in March 2022, the first player sold by the club after the takeover led by club icon Ronaldo.

After an impressive spell at Ludogorets in Bulgaria, Bruges paid a club record £7.5m for him last summer and Premier League interest intensified with the midwinter goal spree in Belgium’s Pro League.

Had Brentford waited until summer with him scoring at the same rate, it is fair to say Thiago would have been out of their range, and they knew Bruges were keen to do business in January.

Brentford had tracked Thiago out of the Brazilian second division and acted fast to sign him

Brentford had tracked Thiago out of the Brazilian second division and acted fast to sign him

Brentford will have time to bed in Thiago so he is prepared to fill the boots of Toney (pictured)

Brentford will have time to bed in Thiago so he is prepared to fill the boots of Toney (pictured)

The advantages of striking early mean they can invite him to London during the international break next month, introduce him to the area and show him places he to live.

Thiago can improve his English. Frank knows he will be there on the first day of preseason training.

Benham, Giles and Dykes have the pressure off as they prepare to sell Toney, who has scored four in five since his return from his ban.

He has the goal-power to secure their Premier League future while value increases and so do his chances of making the England squad for the Euros, which would increase it further.

Brentford, meanwhile, enhance their reputation as a club who know who they are, what they’re doing and the right time to do it.

Port Vale undone by forces from above 

For an illustration of the impact of outside forces rippling across football see Port Vale, who beat Blackpool 3-0 to go 14th in League One on the day Sheffield United exercised a clause to recall Ollie Arblaster from his loan spell.

Chris Wilder had gone back at Bramall Lane and wanted the England U20 midfielder in his squad, although injury delayed Arblaster, who made the bench at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

Three weeks after the call from the Blades, Tottenham recalled Alfie Devine from Vale Park to send him up a tier on loan to Plymouth Argyle where Steven Schumacher had been tempted away by Stoke City and Ian Foster had taken charge.

Foster had coached through England’s development teams so he knew and trusted Devine from their time together. Spurs liked the idea of the teenager playing in the Championship for the second half of this season.

Port Vale have been impacted by bigger clubs recalling loan stars, such as Ollie Arblaster (left)

Port Vale have been impacted by bigger clubs recalling loan stars, such as Ollie Arblaster (left)

Spurs recalled Alfie Devine (left) from Port Vale just to send him to Plymouth in the tier above

Spurs recalled Alfie Devine (left) from Port Vale just to send him to Plymouth in the tier above

Managerial sackings at Sheffield United and Stoke damaged Port Vale, a club dependent on the loan market like so many others. They know the power lies in the hands of those further up football’s food chain. They know risks and enjoy the rewards but cannot legislate for all these events unfolding.

Arblaster and Devine excelled in their midfield with the experienced Funso Ojo. The club reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and were clear of relegation.

Dan Gore has signed on loan from Manchester United and Jensen Weir from Brighton, but they require time to find the rhythm of a new team, just as Arblaster and Devine did.

Vale, meanwhile, have not won since Blackpool on December 29. They had games postponed against Wycombe and Peterborough and a game at Reading abandoned when home fans invaded the pitch in protest.

Slipping into trouble, they sacked manager Andy Crosby on February 5. They were in the relegation zone by the time they appointed Darren Moore last week and lost on Saturday at Cheltenham to deepen their problems.

Former EFL stars shining in Europe

No English teams in the Europa League or Conference League play-off round but plenty of familiar names, including the two players from the top of last season’s Championship goal charts.

Ex-Coventry striker Viktor Gyokeres is flying at Sporting CP - did English clubs miss a trick?

Ex-Coventry striker Viktor Gyokeres is flying at Sporting CP – did English clubs miss a trick?

Chuba Akpom is thriving at Ajax after a difficult start, with nine goals in his last 13 appearances

Chuba Akpom is thriving at Ajax after a difficult start, with nine goals in his last 13 appearances

It turns out that Crystal Palace boss-elect Oliver Glasner bought his ticket to watch Tottenham against Wolves on Saturday

It turns out that Crystal Palace boss-elect Oliver Glasner bought his ticket to watch Tottenham against Wolves on Saturday

Viktor Gyokeres is flying at Sporting, with 28 goals 11 assists in 30 appearances making it look like Premier League clubs missed a trick when the Swede left Coventry for £20m plus bonuses, which are already rolling in for the Sky Blues, and a sell-on.

Chuba Akpom had a tough start at Ajax after leaving Middlesbrough. There were whispers he was angling for a midseason return, but he hit a rich vein of form with nine goals in his last 13 appearances.

Alonso to have a perfect Liverpool handover in May? 

As group winners and seeded teams, Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen will be kept apart when the last-16 of the Europa League is drawn on Friday but the chances of Jurgen Klopp and Xabi Alonso going head-to-head amid a swirl of awkward questions about succession plans at Anfield remains very possible as two of the strongest teams in the competition. Perhaps they can choreograph the perfect baton exchange in Dublin on May 22.

Oliver Glasner paid like the rest of us 

The appearance of Crystal Palace boss elect Oliver Glasner in the crowd at Tottenham on Saturday sparked interest. The conclusion was drawn that he must be there on a scouting mission for Palace, who play Spurs on Saturday week, although he did not go through officials club-to-club channels for a ticket. He bought it, which I am sure his new salary will cover even at the inflated prices on resale sites.



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