Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s first challenge at Norwich City is to justify the hype

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Ricky van Wolfswinkel has scored 22 goals in 44 starts for Sporting since signing from FC UtrechtGettyImagesVan Wolfswinkel: Said Norwich are a "small club" but not a "step down"

Ricky van Wolfswinkel has it all to prove to Norwich City. Not the other way round.

The Canaries' club-record signing's arrival in Norfolk on July 1 when his move from Sporting Lisbon is officially rubber-stamped is set to be heralded with all the fanfare and pomp befitting a precocious talent.

The Dutchman's elevation to the international ranks for friendlies against Indonesia and China over these coming days is a testament to the calibre of striker Chris Hughton and the club's hierarchy have enticed to Carrow Road. But the quotes attributed to Van Wolfswinkel following his link up with the national team last week, when he referred to Norwich as a smaller club to Sporting, were revealing. It's a narrative which has accompanied the news of City's expensive purchase ever since it was first confirmed to a disbelieving public back in April; this idea that Van Wolfswinkel has had to accept a step back in his stellar career by opting for Norwich.

The dispassionate reality tells you Van Wolfswinkel's path to the Premier League has taken him via the less searching surroundings of Dutch and Portuguese club football. That should not be misconstrued as a slight, more a recognition of the footballing landscape in Europe. The biggest names and the best players gravitate elsewhere around the continent. Look at the enduring success over decades of European club competitions, look at the annual turnovers and salaries or transfer fees and on every available measure England's domestic combat will remain in the front rank for some foreseeable time to come.

The 24-year-old's prolific strike rate for Lisbon in a two-year cycle fuels the belief Norwich have recruited a potential star of the future. But the English game is littered with highly-touted commodities who failed to justify top billing. Mateja Kezman came with arguably a more illustrious pedigree, but never really left his stamp on the Premier League. Milan Baros flattered to deceive at Liverpool. Delve a touch deeper and you could add others to that trend.

The Dutchman joins a Norwich squad who for the most part have spent two seasons together in the big time. A flirtation with relegation last time around was prolonged and uncomfortable, but two mid-table finishes should underline they possess players with the requisite skills to prosper - despite the disparities compared to the blue-chip entities and the less expensively assembled but reliable tenants, who have had that much longer to build lasting foundations in pursuit of sustained longevity.

Norwich offer an alluring platform and Van Wolfswinkel would appear astute enough to realise he is likely to be projected as the star should he maintain his upward curve.

It is also worth noting the man himself was quick to dismiss such a negative view of his latest career switch when the accusation was put to him directly again last week. Sporting may have the name and the fan base, the history and the richer European pedigree, but Norwich is a far better bet to showcase the 24-year-old's gifts.

The club is financially stable off the pitch and undeniably ambitious on it. The Premier League remains the most coveted in world football and Norwich's top-flight credentials grow with each season of relative success. The Canaries board, its playing staff and management have all proved themselves in that environment. Now it is Ricky's turn.

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