As the 2022-23 season approached, Everton moved to add depth on the left side of defence with a move for Ruben Vinagre who joined the club in a season-long loan deal from Sporting, with an option to make the deal permanent in the summer of 2023.
Vinagre was a player well known to the Blues' Director of Football, Kevin Thelwell, from their time at Wolverhampton Wanderers and he approached Sporting about the possibility of bringing the 23-year-old back to the Premier League following a year back in Portugal, also on loan, even though Vinagre had only recently signed for the Lisbon club permanently a few weeks earlier.
With Vitalii Mykolenko the only senior left-back on the books, Vinagre was drafted in to provide competition and back-up in that part of the pitch but never got the chance to do so as a result of Everton's struggles in the bottom half of the Premier League and then an injury late in the season.
An attacking full-back, he also provided another option for the left wing-back role in the five-man defensive system that Frank Lampard had instituted at Goodison Park to compensate for weaknesses in defensive midfield.
"It's an amazing club, it's like a dream come true to join a big club like Everton,” the Portuguese said in his first interview with evertontv. “Everton is a big club with a great history, and it's an opportunity for me to work with great players and a great manager, and those things together make me even more excited to work here.
“It's a great opportunity to work with Frank Lampard. He is a football legend, everybody knows him, and to have the opportunity to learn and work with him, is very good for me.”
Vinagre began his career in France with Monaco when he joined their youth ranks but although he signed a professional contract with the Ligue 1 club, he didn't make a senior appearance for them before he was loaned to Wolves to play under his compatrriot, Nuno Espirito Santo and the burgeoining Portuguese contingent at Molineux.
He played nine League games for the Midlanders in 2017-18 as they gained promotion from the Championship and signed for them permanently the following year, making 34 appearances over the next four seasons but also had loan spells in between at Olympiacos, Famaliçao and, finally, Sporting.
With Mykolenko regarded as the first-choice at left-back, Vinagre was given his opportunities in the League Cup, making his debut in the Second Round win over Fleetwood Town and then getting a second start at Bournemouth in the following round.
Unfortunately, he was part of a side that performed abysmally on the night and, whether justified or not, became associated in Lampard's mind with a group of second-string players who had failed to grasp the chance to stake a claim for regular starts in the line-up.
That appearance in a 4-1 defeat on the south coast would prove to be his last after just two other outings as a substitute in the Premier League in August. Sadly, just when the Blues needed him as all three of Mykolenko, Seamus Coleman and Nathan Patterson succumbed to injury in the final weeks of an increasingly desperate battled to avoid the drop, Vinagre was unavailable to new boss Sean Dyche because of
an Achilles tendon injury sustained in training that would end his
season after playing in just fur games.
He left Everton to return to Sporting in May 2023 offering his well-wishes to Evertonians and the club and expressing his sadness that he wasn't able to contribute more to the cause.
"Last season was a difficult season for me, I didn't play as many
games as I wanted to.
"It was not my decision; it was the coaches' decision there. I
respect that. I worked every day in training to prove to them that I
have to play."
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* Everton deducted 10 points for PSR breachView full table