Tiago Djaló is reportedly the subject of interest from Italian giants Napoli and Internazionale, owing to his impressive form this season with Lille in Ligue 1.
The Portuguese defender spoke to local newspaper La Voix du Nord earlier this week on why Paulo Fonseca’s methods at the French side suit his style, as well as touching on his international ambitions after missing out on World Cup selection.
Djaló is currently in his fourth season in the Lille ranks, having joined as a teenager from AC Milan in the summer of 2019 when Rafael Leão moved in the opposite direction. Now 22, the central defender honed in Sporting’s academy has developed well in French Flanders, where he helped Les Dogues win the Ligue 1 title in 2021.
Despite his progress, Djaló was not selected by Fernando Santos for Portugal’s squad at Qatar 2022. The decision clearly disappointed the Amadora-born stopper, who has become an undisputed first choice under new coach Paulo Fonseca this season.
"I was sad [to be left out] because I think I deserved so much more, but there are many things I don't necessarily want to talk about because I don't want to appear frustrated,” Djaló told La Voix du Nord. “ The most important thing is that I want to continue to play a lot. In the Seleção’s next game, I want to be there. That’s the goal."
Fonseca, Fonte recognition
Djaló has been able to draw on the inspiration of two countrymen at Lille. Manager Paulo Fonseca’s insistence on building the play in defence has benefitted the youngster, while captain and centre-back partner José Fonte remains an important source of guidance in encouraging Djaló to mature in the Lille backline.
"I think the way [Fonseca] wants the team to play is perfect for me, because I like to play with the ball,” Djaló says. “I feel better with this philosophy. Compared to previous years, we have participated a lot in the offensive game and the coach gave us a lot of freedom to experiment, to play the ball, to exchange passes.
“I know I have the qualities for that, to have a good relationship with the midfield. I have never felt so much freedom since I arrived. Galtier and Gourvennec had different ways to play, probably more cautious.
"I clearly like this. It's a question of confidence in the coach too. We take a lot of risks, it's true, but we have the quality to do a lot when we're under pressure. This way of playing is magnificent.
“Fonte? He’s a reference point in this position. I've been watching how he plays for three and a half years. Above all, he taught me not to be afraid to speak, to observe the game, the positioning of my teammates.
“When I arrived, I thought there was no use in talking and little by little I understood that it was important to see the game in front of me. This helped me to communicate more with my colleagues. I obviously did not have confidence at the time, I did not speak the language. But even in Portuguese, I started to speak. It's essential."
Should reports be believed, Djaló may well be learning to communicate in Italian next season.
By Sean Gillen