Pijnaker joins Rovers on loan from Rio Ave

Nando Pijnaker has joined Sligo Rovers on loan from Portuguese side Rio Ave for the 2022 campaign, the Bit O’ Red are delighted to announce.

The New Zealand defender, capped at senior level and part of their Olympics team in 2021, has joined Rovers on a season-long loan move subject to international clearance.

The left-sided centre half turns 23 later this month and has previously played with Swiss outfit Grasshopper and a loan spell with Danish outfit Helsingor from his parent club Rio Ave.

Pijnaker was born in the Netherlands but moved to New Zealand as a child. He started all four matches in the Olympics campaign and has also won four senior caps, including three in recent months.

Pijnaker said: “It’s fantastic to be here. It’s a move that appealed to me and my main motivation is to play matches and help the team. I know the season is 36 games plus Cup football and European games so I know a chance will come at some point and I will take it.

“I spoke with the manager a couple of times and I was impressed by what he said. He had been speaking with my agent and I felt this was a good opportunity to go to a team playing European football at a good standard as well.”

The 6ft 3in defender said he was aware of the club after following the career of Ryan De Vries as well as talking to a friend at Shelbourne for more information on the League of Ireland.

“The manager spoke about how he likes to play and I think it will suit me as a defender. I like to think I’ve got many aspects to my game but playing out from the back is one of them. My main job is defending and I’m really looking to show what I can do here. I trained with my team-mates for the first time this morning, I’m ready to play and be part of what looks like a really good club.

“Ireland as a country is quite similar to New Zealand in many aspects. I think I’ll be able to adjust and I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and playing in front of the supporters in The Showgrounds.”

Manager Liam Buckley said: “We’re very pleased to bring in Nando. He’s done well with his country in the Olympics last year. Rio Ave are keen for him to get game time at this stage of his career so we’re delighted to have him with us this season. Nando has a lot of what you want from a defender in terms of his height, strength, his tackling and also his distribution as well. He’s coming into a new league but we feel he can do well here.

“We do have Garry Buckley, Shane Blaney, Robbie McCourt can slot in there and young Peter Maguire is coming through, but with the loss of John Mahon it was important to bring in another defender at centre-half.

“He’s come in with a good level of fitness and we’ll integrate him into the group. He’ll be ready to play from the off and it’s great to have him training with us today. I’ve no doubt he’ll be contributing over the course of the year and I can see by the conversations we’ve had that he is extremely keen to make an impact with us.”