Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert explains what to expect from the Cheltenham-born stopper who's spent his playing career so far in Portugal...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: Jan 15, 1994
- Place of birth: Cheltenham, England
- Position: Centre-back
- Height: 6ft 2in
- Former clubs: Sporting; 31 apps (23 starts), 1 goal; Everton (loan)
- Honours: None
Cheltenham-born Eric Dier moved to Portugal aged just six. His parents’ professional commitments saw the family uprooted first to the Algarve, and subsequently to Lisbon. It was in the Portuguese capital that Dier first attended a Sporting Lisbon open scouting session, when he was nine. It was not just his size, fair hair and blue eyes that made him stand out from the rest: the scouts saw raw talent.
Fast-forward nigh on a decade to a cold November night at the Alvalade Stadium in 2012. Dier was making his Sporting debut with the club striving to end a wretched run of form that had seen them go eight games without a win. With four minutes on the clock, Dier provided the assist for the only goal of the game (see video below). At the other end of the pitch a solid defensive display helped shut out high-flying Braga. As the full-time whistle blew, the fresh-faced centre-back received a standing ovation from the Sporting fans.
Why you need to know him
Touted as future star from a young age, Dier’s career seemed set to take off after a highly impressive debut season. The centre-back’s consistently excellent performances contrasted sharply with a desperately disappointing 2012/13 season for the Lisbon club. Only when experienced Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira took over, soon making Dier a regular in the starting XI, did the team steady itself and achieve a modicum of form.
Backed up by a 35-year coaching career, and as the only domestic coach to manage a team to three successive championships (at Porto), Ferreira is afforded the utmost respect and considered an authority in the Portuguese game. When he speaks, people listen. He has no doubts about Dier: “With some young players you have to mollycoddle them, put an arm around their shoulders. Then there are players like Eric, who don’t need any of that. He lives and breathes football and he has a huge future in the game.”
So taken was Ferreira with Dier’s ability to be more than a solid defender that he often played him in a defensive midfield role – with conspicuous success.
Standing 6ft 2in tall, the well-built Dier has the attributes to be an uncompromising central defender. Aerial prowess, an aggressive tackler and considerable speed make him a formidable opponent. As well as his obvious physical qualities, a football education in Portugal has endowed Dier with sound technique, even allowing him to perform the holding midfielder role competently. Another string to his bow is his fine free-kick taking, as evidenced by a memorable strike against Benfica in a Lisbon derby during his B-team days.
After a storming debut season, he failed to kick on and fell out of favour last term. Blocked by Sporting’s new centre-back partnership of Marcos Rojo and Maurício Nascimento, and the spectacular emergence of midfield holder William Carvalho, the feeling was he had regressed rather than progressed. On his few outings in 2013/14, his passing was off and he lacked focus, notably in a nightmare showing against Benfica. One suspects it was down to lack of match practice, but he needs to work on his concentration throughout the 90 minutes.
After his poor campaign last year, Dier has been seemingly back to his best in pre-season, and played a prominent role in Sporting's impressive summer so far. After beating Utrecht 3-0 in Holland, Co Adriaanse, the former Porto manager currently part of the Dutch club’s setup, commented: “I really liked the look of Eric Dier. As such a tall and heavy-looking defender you would not expect him to be fast – but he is. He played really well. He’s seems a complete player to me.”
Did you know?
Changing environments is something that comes naturally to Dier. After switching countries at such a young age, his family briefly relocated to Valencia, Spain, when he was a teenager, with Dier travelling back to Portugal every weekend to play for Sporting’s Under-13s. Then in 2011, Dier spent a year in Liverpool on loan at Everton. A permanent move back to England (where his parents now live) will not bring adaptation problems.
- Shooting 7
- Heading 7
- Passing 6
- Tackling 8
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 5
- Creativity 5
- Work-rate 7
What happens next?
His transfer to Tottenham came as a surprise to everyone at Sporting. The club’s hierarchy was quick to blame Dier’s exit for a relatively small transfer fee on the previous administration. The big defender was earmarked as one of the players that this resurgent team was to be built around, but Dier had other ideas and was deaf to the club’s arguments trying to persuade him to remain in Lisbon.
Sporting’s official announcement explaining the mechanics of the transfer ended with a terse: “Despite what happened, Sporting wish Eric Dier the greatest of success in his future career.”