He was going all in, he had defied his manager and his team mates – Bojinov had to score...

 

After a frustrating season at Parma, Valeri Bojinov hasn’t started life well at new club Sporting Clube de Portugal. Due to the form and importance to the team of fellow new arrival Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Bojinov’s playing time has been limited, particularly in his favoured centre forward role.

With just over half the Portuguese season gone Bojinov has made 16 appearances – only 5 of which were from the start – and scored 3 goals. Disappointing figures for any new striker eager to impress at his new club, however statistics can never tell the full story.

It is not simply van Wolfsinkel’s form that has marginalised Bojinov but his own as well. He has consistently disappointed and has not earned the trust of the manager, Domingos Paciência, or the affection of the fans. His only goals were not crucial ones; the only two in the league came late in a 6-1 home win against Gil Vicente on 24 October and the other was in a 2-0 home win over Zurich in the Europa Legaue on 1 December with qualification already secure.

There has been a growing dissatisfaction with the Bulgarian amongst the Sporting faithful and that seemed to be heading for a climax when van Wolfswinkel picked up an injury early in last week’s cup game against Nacional. Sporting drew that game, lost the weekend’s league game at Braga and then drew on Thursday at home to second division Moreirense in the league cup.

Bojinov was not stepping up to the plate. If it was forgivable in late cameos or when van Wolfwinkel was also there to help out, it certainly wasn’t now when Bojinov was needed to lead the line.

It is the latter of these aforementioned three games that may have been the turning point in Bojinov’s Sporting career – and not in a positive way.

The 25 year old replaced Uruguayan striker Sebastián Ribas at half time with the score tied at 1-1. Ribas had not impressed in the first forty five but had not been woeful. Bojinov was certainly no improvement.

With Sporting running out of time to find a winner a positive run from Jeffrén won a penalty in stoppage time and the Estádio José Alvalade XXI exploded with noise and anticipation at being handed this lifeline. However, up stepped Bojinov and the anxiety in the crowd was palpable.

Paciência shouted an order from the touchline that Matías Fernández, the designated taker, was to take the penalty but Bojinov pushed the Chilean midfielder away and remained defiant despite the protests of team mate Elias. Stijn Schaars calmed the situation and Bojinov was left to take his penalty.

This was a big moment for the Bulgarian and he clearly saw it as a great opportunity to win back the fans. He was going all in, he had defied his manager and his team mates – he had to score. But his effort was saved by Ricardo Ribeiro and the fans made their disgust quite clear.

The club has since moved to suspend Bojinov from all activity and has begun an investigation into his conduct. He disobeyed his manager’s orders, shoved a team mate and seems to have completely turned the fans against him. It’s hard to see a way back for Bojinov at Sporting. It’s possible, of course, that he does have a future in Lisbon, with profuse apologies and good honest hard work – time will tell – but he may well look back on last night and wonder “what if…what if I had scored that penalty…”