Portugese club agrees transfer deal for All Whites defender Nando Pijnaker

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All Whites defender Nando Pijnaker has made a permanent move from Portugese club Rio Ave to Irish club Sligo Rovers where he has been loan for the 2022 season.

Pijnaker (23) was under contract to the Portugese Primeira Liga side till 2024 but the clubs have reached agreement for his move to Rovers who play in the League of Ireland.

Sligo manager John Russell told media: “I’m delighted Nando has agreed to sign on a permanent deal.

“Nando is a player of immense quality. He is a current International and he has all the attributes to play at the highest level.

“He is a top professional and someone who is very driven and always willing to listen and learn. I feel he can take his game to another level in 2023.”

Pijnaker said: “I have really enjoyed my time in Sligo so far and I was keen to come back here on a permanent basis.

“I wish to thank everyone at Rio Ave for helping me in my career and I am looking forward to my future here at the Showgrounds. The supporters and the town in general have been so welcoming to me and made me feel at home.’’

The deal was struck with only 10 days left on the loan deal, due to expire on New Year’s Day.

Pijnaker meets Nelson Suburbs youngsters

Meanwhile, Pijnaker has been back in New Zealand while the transfer deal was being negotiated.

He was a special guest at the end-of-year awards by the NBS Nelson Suburbs FC Academy, answering questions from the floor and by the academy’s Mental Performance Coach Erik Panzer.

According to the academy’s report of the event, Pijnaker talked about his journey from a youth player in Rotorua, his experiences at Olé Football Academy and his first professional contract, representing New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 World cup and his experience being selected and playing for the All Whites.

Nelson Suburbs said the session with Pijanker was a “brilliant way to finish the year” and the club thanked sponsors NBS for making such opportunities possible.

Pijnaker (white shirt) answers questions from Nelson Suburbs academy players. Photo: Nelson Suburbs Academy.

Pijnaker’s career

Dutch-born Pijnaker emigrated with his family to Rotorua and made his senior debut, at 15, for Bay of Plenty side Ngongotaha after playing for the local Western Heights High School.

He moved to Wellington to join Olé Football Academy and coach Declan Edge, turning out for Western Suburbs in the Central League.

In 2018, he joined Auckland club Eastern Suburbs and was part of its ISPS Handa Premiership side that qualified for the OFC Champions League.

Since then, he’s played for Swedish club Torslanda IK, Swiss outfit Grasshopper and then moved to Portugese side Rio Ave in August 2020. Last year, he was loaned to Danish side FC Helsingør.

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