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Lion City Sailors sign Dutch international



The Lion City Sailors sounded a warning to their rivals that they mean business as the Singapore Premier League (SPL) club aim to reclaim the title that they last won in 2021.

The SPL’s only privatised outfit confirmed on Feb 26 that they have signed former Holland international and ex-PSV Eindhoven attacking midfielder Bart Ramselaar.

The 27-year-old arrives from Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for a reported fee of about 1.5 million euros (S$2.2million).

The sum is below the 1.8 million euros that the Sailors paid Portuguese Primeira Liga side Rio Ave for Brazilian playmaker Diego Lopes in 2021.

The deal for Lopes — who left Singapore after his three-year contract expired at the end of last season — is the most expensive in the SPL and the first time a league club had paid a multi-million transfer fee for a player from a top European team.

Citing the Sailors’ “great project” as a motivation for joining the club, Ramselaar added: “I’ve played my whole career in Holland, so it was always one of my targets to prove myself in a foreign league one day.

I’m really intrigued by this new challenge in Singapore with the Sailors… I’m here to help the team with my experience and hopefully play some nice football that can get more fans into the stadium.”

Sailors coach Aleksandar Rankovic, who previously worked with Ramselaar when he was Utrecht’s assistant coach in the 2022/23 season, said: “Bart is a fantastic addition to the team with his speed and intelligent link-up play in the final third.

“I’m already looking forward to seeing how he can complement the likes of Maxime (Lestienne), Shawal Anuar and Richairo Zivkovic to give us an even better attacking threat.”

Jeroen Kapteijns, a journalist at Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf said that the Sailors are getting “a very skillful player with a good technique”.

He added: “Erik ten Hag (current Manchester United manager), who worked with him at FC Utrecht previously, was always impressed by his technique. It’s certainly a surprising move. I didn’t expect it at all but it was his wish to go abroad one day and for him this is the opportunity to see something more of the world.”

Kapteijns also noted that the reported transfer fee was reasonable and close to the amount that PSV had paid Utrecht.

This season, Ramselaar has mostly been used off the bench in the Eredivise, making only three starts in 13 matches.

Kapteijns explained that the midfielder has missed most of last season owing to a knee injury, and that he was “in top form with nine goals and everyone expected him to make a transfer to a bigger club, so the injury came in a very unlucky moment”.

The signing is the Sailors’ second this season after Croatian centre-back Toni Datkovic, 30.

The SPL season kicks off in May, with the Sailors gunning for glory after losing out in the title race to Albirex Niigata in the last two seasons.

ALSO READ: Singapore fires head coach Takayuki Nishigaya after poor results

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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