Eight years after leaving Liverpool for Sunderland in a deal worth £4 million, Sebastian Coates has now equalled a historic record with Sporting CP.
There were high hopes for Coates upon his arrival at Liverpool from Uruguayan club Nacional in 2011, but the towering centre-back never truly settled.
Having joined as a 20-year-old, the £7 million transfer fee put a weight of expectation on his shoulders, and he only made 24 appearances for the first team.
Though his bicycle kick against QPR lives long in the memory, his time on Merseyside fizzled out as, after a return to Nacional on loan, he joined Sunderland in 2014.
Initially on loan, Coates’ stay at the Stadium of Light was made permanent for £4 million a year later, but he was then forced out upon the appointment of Sam Allardyce months after that deal was completed.
Joining Sporting on loan for a season-and-a-half paved the way for a permanent switch – and he has enjoyed unprecedented success in Lisbon.
Becoming captain in 2020 and lifting the Primeira Liga in 2020/21 – the club’s first in 19 years – Coates has now equalled a long-standing record.
História de ? ao peito! ?@SebastianCoates acaba de igualar Anderson Polga como o jogador estrangeiro com mais jogos pelo #SportingCP, ao mesmo tempo em que iguala também Anderson Polga e Pedro Barbosa como o 9.º jogador com mais jogos na história do Clube.
Que orgulho,… pic.twitter.com/lAKz0OubCt
— Sporting CP (@SportingCP) November 26, 2023
Making his 242nd outing for Sporting in Sunday’s 8-0 thrashing of Dumiense in the Taca de Portugal, he levelled Anderson Polga for the most appearances for the club by a foreign player ever.
He marked it with a goal, the fourth of the evening, before being given a standing ovation when he was brought off in the 75th minute.
Vamos por mais, Capitão! ?
— Sporting CP (@SportingCP) November 27, 2023
Coates is now also tied with Polga and Pedro Barbosa in ninth in Sporting’s all-time appearances list.
“The truth is that, since I arrived, I never expected to reach this milestone, but I’m happy,” he told Sporting TV after the game.
“I also had the opportunity to speak to Anderson [Polga], who for me and the club was an example.
“From his side I want to thank him, he was the one who did everything to contact me and proved to be a person with tremendous humility.
“I’ve been here for many years, my children are also fans of the club and enjoy the games. It’s part of the my life and it will always be a pride to be part of the club.”
It is a far cry from his low-key time in the Premier League, with few having predicted when he left Liverpool that he would reach such heights.
Now 33, Coates’ deal with Sporting is set to expire in the summer, though the club hold an option to extend it by a further 12 months.
Beyond that, there are already hopes he will stay part of the hierarchy when his playing career ends.