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On This Day (5 July 2013): New Sunderland signing Cabral ‘ready’ for Premier League challenge

As part of Paolo Di Canio’s summer rebuild, the summer of 2013 saw a swathe of incomings, among which was a Cape Verde international who felt like a good fit for us…

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

In what was one of the more bizarre and bewildering summer transfer windows of recent times, Sunderland brought in no fewer than thirteen players during the offseason of 2013.

With new director of football Roberto di Fanti spearheading the operation, new players were arriving so quickly and with such regularity, you could barely catch your breath.

With the exception of Vito Manonne, Fabio Borini and Juventus’s Emanuele Giaccherini, the majority of the incoming players were virtual unknowns in the Premier League. After many years of purchasing mediocre players on inflated transfer fees and wages, the club was changing tack, and it was hoped that they could unearth some hidden gems in the European market.

Unfortunately, the reality was quite the opposite.

One of our first signings during this window was the free transfer of central midfielder Cabral from Swiss club FC Basel. His signing was announced in early June, but he was only formally presented to the media and fans in July, following the expiration of his previous contract.

There was much anticipation and hope that he could be one of the ‘rough diamonds’ that our new recruitment team would uncover, and considering that he had played at the highest level of European football, and for a club of the stature of Basel, the hope was not completely unfounded.

Sunderland AFC v Leicester City FC- Barclays U21 League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Indeed, Cabral himself was hopeful of making impact.

On this day in July 2013, he gave interviews to the media about the challenge ahead and displayed confidence that he was capable of reaching the standards of the Premier League.

‘This is a new challenge for me and I am looking forward to it.’

‘Playing in Basle, we won everything in Switzerland, and I played in the Champions League and Europa League.’

‘Now I have a new challenge in England, and for me, it is the best league.’

Furthermore, he expressed his fondness for his new manager, Paolo Di Canio, and believed that his passion and application would appeal to him. He also highlighted how the Stadium of Light crowd would be the biggest he had ever played in front of.

‘The coach is outstanding. First he was a big player, now a great coach. He gives everything for the team.

‘I like the coach. He is passionate and is always wanting the team to do better.’

‘In Basle, there are passionate fans - around 20,000 or so per game - but this is different’

‘Every game we play, the fans are always there and that is important for the team. In the game, I battle for the fans.’

At the time, there was great confidence that Cabral had what it took to make a difference for Sunderland in the Premier League, and his early performances did little to quell the positivity.

In July, the squad jetted off to Asia for the Barclays Premier League Trophy, and it was during the 3-1 victory over Tottenham where Cabral impressed. In wet conditions, he controlled the tempo of the game and also bagged himself a classy goal.

With the new season about to begin, there was much speculation that he could be a major player for us, but unfortunately, this was about as good as it got for Cabral.

Although he started the first game of the season against Fulham, his inspid display appeared to frustrate Di Canio, and he didn't play another game under him, or his successor, Gus Poyet.

Rumours of fitness and disciplinary issues were rife, but in more recent times, Di Canio has suggested that the midfielder simply couldn’t adapt to the pace of the English game.

Following his departure, Cabral played in Italy before he returned to Switzerland, where he has played for Lausanne since 2018, and his brief spell on Wearside will remain one of the many mysteries of what was an infamous summer transfer window at Sunderland AFC.


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