Luis Machado has made quick strides in acclimatising himself to Gerard Nus' plans at NorthEast United ever since his arrival from Liga NOS side Moreirense FC in late September.
For a player to move abroad for the first time in his life and then to immediately hit the ground running inside a lifeless bio-bubble, it takes a notable amount of grit and determination. NorthEast United’s Luis Machado is an apt case in point.
Two weeks into the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020/21 season, the Portuguese forward gained instant stardom in the hearts of the Highlanders when he guided his team to a thrilling 2-2 draw against Bengaluru FC on December 8 last year. After bagging a fortuitous opener, Machado had eked out a 78th-minute equaliser past the safe hands of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
“Upon my arrival at the club amidst the global pandemic, I was made to feel at home by a very unique group of players. It is because of the group’s collective mentality that I was inspired enough to grab the crucial goals against Bengaluru for my team,” Machado told indianexpress.com.
Ever since his arrival from Liga NOS side Moreirense FC, the 28-year-old has made quick strides in making the starting spot on the NorthEast United left flank his. His decade-long experience helped him get acclimatised to Gerard Nus’ plans.
After starting his youth career at SCU Paredes in the second division, Machado made his professional debut for SC Freamunde in 2011. Three years later, he moved to CD Tondela and earned a promotion to the Liga NOS with the club.
During the winter transfer window of the 2015/16 season, the winger moved to second division side CD Feirense where he registered 8 goals and 10 assists during his three-year stay with the club. Following CD Feirense’s relegation at the end of the 2018/19 season, Machado moved to Moreirense FC, and made 24 appearances for the club, scoring one goal and assisting three others.
“For quite some time, I was considering my options in order to freshen up my career. Knowing about the exploits of former Portuguese players like Simao [Sabrosa] and [Helder] Postiga, I accepted the opportunity to go to India rather quickly. I knew I was going to live in a very different culture from Portugal, but so far, it has been a good, enriching experience,” the Lamego-born player added.
“Initially, I was very surprised by the quality of football that the teams played in India. Now that I have known my teammates better, I can say that they are quite good. Still, I want to highlight Lalengmawia Ralte and Ninthoinganba [Meetei].”
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Although NorthEast United are currently on a four-match winless run, the club started off the season with aplomb. Nus’ underdogs slew title favourites Mumbai City in their season opener and equalled their miserly two wins in total from last season in a six-match unbeaten run. During that run, Machado chipped in with two goals, playing either beside or sometimes behind the target man.
“Playing alongside talented players like Kwesi [Appiah] and [Idrissa] Sylla has made me very happy this season. Most of all, credit goes to the gaffer for making it a lot easier for us,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to have Gerard Nus as the head coach because he knows how to motivate us to reach our goals.”
NorthEast United, who have made it to the ISL playoffs just once in the last six years, are currently sixth in the eleven-team standings with 11 points from eight matches. A defeat at the hands of league leaders ATK Mohun Bagan in their next match is almost certain if they fail to stop losing focus in the crucial junctures on the field. But Machado is not all that worried because he has faith in his team.
“We are a well-organised team possessing a lot of quality. I’m sure we will work hard in the coming weeks to ensure a spot in the playoffs,” he said.
“Hopefully, before the final weeks of the season, the fans will be allowed back inside the stadiums. I would like to play in a crowded Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium and feel more closely their fantastic affection someday.”
REVISIT LUIS MACHADO’S BRACE AGAINST BENGALURU FC:
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