Wigan Athletic yesterday announced the signing of the 19 year-old midfielder/winger Leo Da Silva from Peterborough United for an undisclosed fee. The 5 ft 6 in tall player has signed a four-year contract.
On signing Da Silva, Wigan manager Paul Cook was enthused stating that:
“Leo has been one of the best young players in the EFL over the past couple of seasons, this is a really strong addition to our squad. I am looking forward to working with Leo and believe he will embrace the challenge of Championship football here at Wigan Athletic. Everyone has to remember Leo is just 19 and has his best years ahead of him but he certainly has the foundations to become a top level player.”
Leonardo Da Silva Lopes was born in Lisbon and moved to England at the age of 12. He joined the Posh as a 14 year-old, making his first team debut at 16 starting in a home game against Crawley Town in April 2015. He made another start the following week in the last game of the 2014-15 season at Oldham. The following season he made 4 league starts, with 4 appearances as a substitute. However, in 2016-17 Da Silva became more established, making 32 league starts, 6 appearances off the bench, scoring 2 goals. Last season he made 28 league starts with 11 substitute appearances. Although still only 19, he made over 100 appearances in all competitions at Peterborough. He has also been called into the Portugal under-21 squad.
To learn more about Da Silva’s time at Peterborough we contacted a couple of Posh fans through Twitter:
Nathan Brown (@NathanBrown_95) commented that:
His strengths were his speed, pace, athleticism, his versatility as well. His weaknesses would be confidence, his reliance on trickery.. his upper body strength.
He wasn’t popular with many fans and that’s hampered his development at the club, but of the fans who did like him, we felt he had potential and just needed proper coaching and a confidence boost, an arm around the shoulder really.
James Bloodworth (@Jamesb17_) gave an overview:
I’m going to assume that the vast majority of Wigan fans reading don’t know a great deal about your shiny new million pound signing, beyond the fact he’s come from a bit of a naff 3rd division club and has a big reputation. If you want a basic outline of what you’ve got on your hands in terms of playing style, I’d say if I was building a 5 a side team from last season’s squad, LDSL would be my first pick. However, if I was choosing a full XI the youngster would be near the bottom…
Don’t get me wrong, he has an excellent dribbling ability; some tricks and flicks he has in his locker are beyond the average league 1 player’s imagination, let alone their skill set. A terrific engine too: he’d probably cope just as well at the local athletics club doing 10,000m as he will do at The DW. But that, unfortunately is where the positives end. If Leo has a grade A in trickery, he has an F in footballing intelligence. His spatial awareness is poor, and his knack of making the wrong decisions or executing the right ones poorly didn’t help endear himself to the Posh faithful. Neither did his overly laid back style. Nor his below average final ball. All of this accumulated to Leo’s final stats for us: 108 games, 6 goals. For an attacking midfielder, that is poor. What is even more concerning is that in spite of playing over 50 games in the season just gone, Lopes scored 0 goals and got one assist. He did not contribute in a positive way at all.
I do have sympathy for the 19 year old, who was spotted playing in the Peterborough and District Junior league five years ago. We first heard of a ‘special talent coming through the youth ranks’ in 2014. A free scoring attacking midfielder with an eye for a spectacular goal. What’s not to like?
Throughout his first two seasons, he was slowly inducted into the first team squad. 3 managers came and went in that time, and none of them gave Leo more than a token appearance here and there. Then, in the summer of 2016, Posh legend Grant McCann took the reins, and Lopes was thrust into the limelight. From the reserves to first eleven virtually overnight, Leo was no longer a kid that we wanted to do well, he was a first teamer who had to do well. Lopes was a virtual ever present throughout the latter stages of that calendar year, and it became clear it was all too much too soon. He needed a break, his career had accelerated far too quickly and it was clear he was not ready for such responsibility. Unfortunately, Peterborough United have become a club forced to sell to survive, and in the age of Dele Alli and Ademola Lookman moving from League 1 to the Premier League, Lopes was seen as our golden ticket. He continued to play, regardless of his countless poor performances, as we could not afford to let an asset go unsold.
But he did. Despite *ahem* ‘interest’ from Tottenham and Arsenal, Lopes started 17/18 at London Road. Curiously though, as a wingback. Grant McCann’s tactical shift saw Lopes shoehorned into the side, and he struggled. His weak defensive skills were exploited, and before long, he was playing as a “number 10”. Then a winger. Then a defensive midfielder. I do have sympathy, as McCann’s poor management- which resulted in his contract being shredded in February- has hindered Lopes. His neat touches and engine are still his only assets, when he should have improved other fundamental skills to make him a genuine attacking weapon.
As has been alluded to, Lopes became somewhat of a political pawn. He was that much of a mainstay in the team when it was clear he didn’t belong there, that some speculated he was being played on instruction from the boardroom. A frustration that should have been aimed at McCann and the hierarchy ended up being centred on Leo, and the weight of expectation from the club and lack of patience from the fanbase hindered him. The bottom line though has to be, Lopes was not good enough for us last year, and was being played in the hope somebody bought him. Some fans thought he is good enough to reach the Premier League. Others were rather harsh in saying that LDSL would look out of his depth in a pub side. I’m in the middle: he’s currently operating at League 2/ Conference level,and should really have had a loan spell before he became such a polarising figure.