Football: SPL champions Lion City Sailors sign Brazilian defender Henrique for $2m

The 29-year-old was previously with Portuguese top-tier club Vitoria Guimaraes from 2015 to 2021. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

SINGAPORE - Looking to shore up their defence ahead of their AFC Champions League debut, Lion City Sailors have signed Brazilian centre-back Pedro Henrique, who played in the Europa League with Portuguese top-tier side Vitoria Guimaraes.

The 29-year-old, who has signed a three-year deal, was at Vitoria from 2015 to 2021, during which the club finished fourth in the league and second in the Portuguese Cup in 2017. He also played in the Europa League the following season and scored in the 1-1 draw with RB Salzburg.

Henrique played in the second-tier European club competition again in 2019, before going on loan to Saudi side Al-Wehda and Brazilian club Atletico Goianiense.

The 1.9-metre defender is expected to be an upgrade from compatriot Jorge Fellipe, a Player of the Year nominee in the 2021 season when the Sailors won their first Singapore Premier League (SPL) trophy as a privatised outfit.

Henrique is said to possess aerial prowess, astute positional sense, good composure and a strong ability to distribute the ball from the back. He is expected to gel with local defenders such as Hariss Harun, Amirul Adli and Tajeli Salamat.

The Straits Times understands that the Sailors paid Vitoria 1.3 million euros (S$2 million) to get their new man, who arrived on Jan 12 to serve a 10-day quarantine and participated in his first Sailors training session on Monday (Jan 24).

He said: "I wish I could have been part of the team when the club won the league last year. But I am excited about everything else that the club is doing off the field as well - the Sailors project is very ambitious, and I'm delighted to be able to play a part in making that vision a reality.

"I'm looking forward to working with Diego (Lopes) and club head coach Kim Do-hoon, who won the AFC Champions League. With so many of the squad having international experience with the Singapore team, I'm confident we will grow to be a team to be reckoned with."

Since privatising the Sailors in 2020, owners Sea Limited have pumped in significant investment to strengthen the club.

After finishing second in the SPL in their first season, they spent a league-record 1.8 million euros to sign Brazilian playmaker Lopes from then-Portuguese top-division club Rio Ave.

Last year, they pipped Albirex Niigata to win their first SPL title and qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, where they are drawn into Group F alongside Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds, Chinese champions Shandong Taishan and the winners between South Korea's Daegu FC and Thailand's Buriram United.

In November, they signed former South Korean captain and striker Kim Shin-wook on a three-year deal that is understood to be worth more than $3 million. They also have Singapore's top two custodians in the squad after recruiting goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud to join Hassan Sunny.

And the Sailors are not done with their foreign recruitment, as they are still in the market for a wide forward.

Coach Kim said: "Pedro comes with qualities that will help the team improve even further. We are very clear that we must work to become competitive at the Asian level, and I'm confident that Pedro will help us on our journey.

"I can't wait to get started with the team in 2022. With the likes of Shin-wook and Pedro, along with the local players we have brought on board, I believe we will be more effective in improving our football."

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