Brazilian side Botafogo have completed the signing of Uruguayan wonderkid Nicolás Lodeiro from Ajax for an undisclosed fee. The deal was confirmed on Botafogo’s official website on Friday, and Lodeiro will link up with his new team-mates after the Olympic Games.
Making his debut for Uruguayan giants Nacional aged just 18, Lodeiro enjoyed national honours in his second season in senior football as Nacional won the Primera División in 2008-09. Although still a teenager, Lodeiro played in 25 of Nacional’s 32 league fixtures that season, earning rave reviews and showing maturity beyond his years.
After helping his side reach the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores in 2009, Lodeiro began to attract interest from a number of European clubs and few were surprised when the midfielder left for Dutch giants Ajax in January 2010. Although linking up with compatriots Luis Suarez – who had recommended Nicolás to Ajax boss Martin Jol – and Bruno Silva somewhat softened the blow of having to leave his home continent, Lodeiro predictably struggled to make an immediate impact at Ajax, only making ten appearances in all competitions.
Included in Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup squad, Lodeiro did little to boost his chances of first-team football at the Amsterdam Arena by first becoming the tournament’s first player to be sent off, and then picking up an injury that kept him out for the entire 2010-11 campaign.
To his credit, Lodeiro recovered to make 12 Eredivisie appearances for Ajax last season, scoring his first league goals for the club and also netting against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late to save his Ajax career, and the Dutch giants have allowed Lodeiro to leave as they prepare to defend their league title in 2012-13.
Five years ago, Lodeiro’s decision to leave Europe for the Brazilian top-flight would have been viewed as a huge step backwards, but the league has markedly improved in recent years as national heroes return home to end their careers and Brazil’s youngsters now choose to bide their time at home rather than rushing into an ill-advised move to Europe.
In joining Botafogo – currently just one point shy of fourth place and a Copa Libertadores berth – Lodeiro follows in the footsteps of Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who left Europe for The Lone Star at the start of the month. The fanfare surrounding the former AC Milan and Real Madrid schemer, who still dominates Botafogo’s official website over 20 days after joining, will take some of the pressure off Lodeiro.
At the age of 23, Lodeiro has played just 81 games at club level – Seedorf has made over 800 appearances. Named as Man of the Match in just his second senior appearance for Uruguay, Lodeiro clearly has talent, and moving back to South America can help him settle and rediscover the form that led him to Europe in the first place. He needs more first-team football, and Lodeiro is more likely to play regularly at Botafogo than Ajax.
A statement on Botafogo’s official website said: “Botafogo closed on Thursday the signing of Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro, 23. The player, who signed for four years with the club, is meeting with the Uruguayan team in preparation for the Olympics in London, and [will] submit to Botafogo after the competition.”