Clubs hover for Shamrock Rovers Pico Lopes after Afcon heroics

Cape Verde defender prepares to keep Liverpool's Sadio Mane under wraps in Tuesday's meeting with Senegal
Clubs hover for Shamrock Rovers Pico Lopes after Afcon heroics

Cape Verde's Shamrock Rovers defender Roberto Lopes (left) battles Cameroon's Harold Moukoudi for the ball during the Group A Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 match  in Yaounde. Lopes' displays in the tournament have attracted interest. Picture: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

The impressive displays of Pico Lopes at the African Cup of Nations – where he’s due to mark Sadio Mane on Tuesday – has attracted transfer interest from European clubs.

His Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley confirmed the club have fielded enquiries for their centre-back since he began starring for Cape Verde at the showpiece.

Such was the role played by the Dublin-born defender in the 1-1 draw against hosts Cameroon last Monday that he earned the man-of-the-match award.

That point sealed progression to the last-16 and they can expect an even tougher test from Senegal on Tuesday (4pm, Live on Sky Sports).

Lopes will be in direct combat with Liverpool sharpshooter Sadio Mane but the highest-ranked nation at the tournament also have Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Ismaila Sarr of Waterford, PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye, as well as Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy of Chelsea within their ranks.

Bradley is tipping the 29-year-old to rise to the challenge, admitting that discussions about holding onto him could become inevitable on the back of his eye-catching displays on the big stage.

“I think it can,” Bradley said when asked if the showcase can land Lopes a major move despite his age.

“There have been a few teams that have really liked him. If they make that call to us, it’s a conversation we’ll have to have with the club and with Pico.

“That’s from the stage he’s on; he’s performing and is getting recognised.

“There has been interest from European clubs but there haven’t been any official requests. He’s performed well and is going to have that interest.

“I think he just has to play his normal game against Senegal, not get wrapped up in who he is against and what he’s against.

“I think Pico does that really well; he focuses on what he can bring to the game. You can’t affect what others are going to bring to the game. I’ve been talking to him, he’s calm and he’s enjoying it.” 

 Lopes became the first Irish-born player to participate at the tournament having declared through his Cape Verde-born father Carlos.

“It makes it so much more interesting watching Pico,” said Bradley about the unexpected Irish angle.

“It’s brilliant to see him performing at that level against some of the world’s stars. He’s loving it which you would expect and it’s great to see him perform because he deserves it. He works at it every day which shows in his performances on a weekly basis and he’s showing it out there.” 

Meanwhile, Andy Lyons has emulated Lopes by crossing the Dublin divide from Bohemians to Rovers.

The Ireland U21 full-back was, like the majority of Bohs' squad from last season, out of contract after their FAI Cup final defeat to St Patrick’s Athletic and attracted interest from the lower league clubs in England.

However, he has opted to join the dominant force of Irish football, a Rovers side with Champions League commitments in the summer and a season in which they’ll be chasing their third league title on the spin.

“I got a call from Stephen Bradley and once I started chatting to him and hearing his plans and vision for me, that was something I was really excited about,” Lyons said.

“England and the UK is my ambition, but he outlined what his plan is for me and I think this is the perfect club for me.

“I think not getting Europe with Bohs was very disappointing and my experience last year meant that I just really want to go back there and experience that again. It’s about making that next step for me in my development in my career.”

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