The halls of Sporting Club de Portugal’s academy are famed, their graduates plentiful. Over the last two decades wingers have been of consistent emergence. Luis Figo, Simao, Ricardo Quaresma, and Cristiano Ronaldo have all graduated from the academy in Alcochete, Portugal. Anyone who emerges from Sporting’s academy will draw comparisons and some pressure, just ask Yannick Djalo. The striker turned winger is another talent that Sporting fans hoped would bring them success, yet unfortunately for both parties it never worked out.
In the beginning he showed much promise for the club. Selected for an end of season friendly by Laszlo Boloni at the tender age of 16, he bet his coach a crate of cola he would score. Djalo did just that and Boloni was forced to make a stop at the grocery store. Loaned to Casa Pia, he recorded fantastic form before returning to Sporting where he was slowly introduced. By the age of 20 he was part of an exciting striking partnership alongside Brazilian forward Liedson.
Yet it never truly came together for the forward. His pace was an asset, but his electric displays were never consistently strung together. Once a bright talent, his star began to fade and eventually he was making the difficult transition to: ‘Former Sporting starlet’. An offer from Nice in France arrived, but confusion quickly ensued. The move was officially completed after the transfer deadline and thus was ruled null and void. Cast into a state of limbo, it was a difficult place for the young man to find himself. Fate had other plans and seemed to smile upon him. Djalo was granted the opportunity to sign with Benfica. A move that surprised many at the time, perhaps those at the Estadio da Luz had seen something missed by his former employers.
Djalo was imeediately loaned to Toulouse of Ligue Un, by now he was operating as a winger. Fast yet lacking a subtlety to really use the asset, his time in Ligue 1 brought over half a dozen games, but little in the way of development. Heading back to Benfica, his situation did not improve. That’s because his second Lisbon club was beginning to feel a lot like the one he had just left. Largely training with the B-side, opportunities were few and far between. It was around this time when he became famous in Portugal for marrying a pop star.
His next move was a transfer to Major League Soccer. San Jose seems to have sparked something inside of him. At the age of 27, it seems things are slowly aligning for the Guinea-Bissau born player. His delightful trick against the Columbus Crew showed a swagger and confidence that had been lacking in previous seasons. Add that to his recent strike against Chivas USA and Djalo is starting to show why he could be a shrewd investment for the Earthquakes.
His current hope is to gain consistency in San Jose and began building a career for himself. Described as a ‘game changer’ this week by teammate Alan Gordon, it’s a bold statement for a player that is only just showing flashes of brilliance. In a fairly open interview Gordon explained: “He’s someone that we’ve needed. He gives us a different dimension, and without him we’re pretty one dimensional. He gives us that ‘X’ factor. It’s great to have him. I’m excited to watch him get better and better as he gets more fit.”
Djalo has yet to reach the peak of his sharpness, perhaps that is what makes the fans in San Jose excited. An understandable feeling given the brief glimmers he has already shown. It is important now that Djalo not only sparks something in San Jose, but sparks something inside himself, especially given that the stakes are much higher than a crate of cola.