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EXCLUSIVE: Dundee United’s Argentine ace Adrian Sporle opens up on Scottish life, his bromance with Ian Harkes and international ambitions

Dundee United winger Adrian Sporle celebrates his winner against Aberdeen last weekend.
Dundee United winger Adrian Sporle celebrates his winner against Aberdeen last weekend.

With every word of Spanglish exchanged between us, Adrian Sporle grows in confidence.

Much like the Argentine ace’s career at Dundee United, our Zoom chat (which sees both player and writer attempt to a hold a conversation in foreign tongue) is a slow burner but one that, eventually, shines brightly.

Sporle has taken his time to settle at United, on and off the pitch, since joining the club in the summer of 2019.

Albeit he played his part in the club’s Championship success last season, the 25-year-old has taken his game to new heights in the Premiership this time out.

With four goals in 21 games in all competitions, Sporle is the Tangerines’ third-highest goalscorer.

Not bad for a man signed as a left-back under previous boss Robbie Neilson.

Now finding a home on the left flank of Micky Mellon’s team and on the banks of the Tay, Sporle is thriving and getting to grips with English, too.

It hasn’t always been this way, though, with the coronavirus leaving Sporle trapped in a foreign country and yearning for home comforts.

Argentine barbecue asado at the top of the wish list

He explained: “I miss Argentina sometimes, I have been here for two years with a lot of it in lockdown.

“I just need a week or 10 days back in Argentina!

“I was not able to go home. I was here because the flights going to Argentina could not get me back.

“There was no guarantee so I decided to stay for the whole quarantine.

“It’s nearly two years here in a room without visiting family and friends back home.

“I miss the asado (an Argentine barbecue) in Argentina most and being able to speak with other people.

“I can speak English better now but Argentina is my language and my culture and here is very different.”

Adrian Sporle is flying in tangerine at the moment.

Thankfully, with girlfriend Sofia with him in the flat, Sporle is no longer climbing the walls and enjoying exploring his new home.

Asked if his girlfriend is with him, Sporle replied: “She’s next to me now!

“She came here this season and it’s better for me because before she was in Argentina.

“Life is different and better now with her in Dundee.

“I like Dundee and the city, the mountains and the forests in the north, too.

“Scotland is a very beautiful country and the people are nice to me.

“I love it a lot and feel very comfortable here.”

Caniggia put Dundee on the map for winger

Sporle didn’t know much about the Terrors before checking in at Tannadice from Banfield but he was aware of a very special countryman that had plied his trade across the street.

He added: “I knew Rangers and Celtic, everyone in Argentina does, but not Dundee United before I came here.

“I knew there was a great Argentine player that was here with the other team in the city – Claudio Caniggia.

Argentine superstar Claudio Caniggia was a remarkable signing for Dundee in the early 2000s.

“But I have learned about the club and got more information since I have been here.

“I am very happy and, for me, what is more important than me scoring goals is helping the team.

“I am pleased I’m playing and scoring goals is even better because it can help the team climb higher in the table.”

Ian Harkes helped Sporle settle at Tannadice

Almost as important to Sporle as his girlfriend is his relationship with team-mate Ian Harkes.

The Argentine and the American have sparked up a bromance, with Harkes helping Sporle be understood in the dressing-room when he first came to these shores.

It is something the winger appreciates and insists everyone at the club has been very welcoming and supportive.

“My relationship with Ian is very good – he is my best friend here,” he laughed.

Dundee United ace Ian Harkes hopes to keep top-six dream alive with win over Celtic – with or without backing of Hoops star fiancée Sarah Teegarden

“In the beginning he helped me a lot because I did not speak any English.

“Ian translated for the other players and for other things in the club.

“Now, we have a great friendship.

“Every single player has given me help which shows what a great club it is.

“There is a whole team together here and that shows on the pitch.”

‘If you ask me where I want to play, it’s striker! No, left midfield!’

As for the gaffer, or “jefe” as Sporle calls him, things are going great despite Mellon’s lack of Spanish.

Sporle has moved from defence to midfield under his reign but is yet to convince the boss to field him as a striker.

He does seem to be working on it, however.

“I can play all down the left side so I don’t have a problem where I play,” he said.

“I like playing on the wing more, at times, because I am near the goal and I like to score goals.

“If the gaffer needs me to play in defence I don’t have a problem, I can play.

“If you ask me where I want to play, it’s striker! No, left midfield!

Dundee United boss Micky Mellon.

“He does not speak a word of Spanish but our relationship is normal between a manager and a player.

“At first, of course, I wasn’t getting a lot of game time and I was on the bench but I think I have won my place in the starting XI by scoring goals and helping the team.

“Micky is great with me and the other players, too.

“Playing with Shanks (Lawrence Shankland) or Marc McNulty or Louis Appere or Nicky Clark, it doesn’t matter.

“They are all good players – in midfield we have Ian and Jeando Fuchs. They come in and help the team.

“We play a similar style in Argentina with the quick passing and I like it. It suits me.”

Dundee United’s greatest ever Argentine?

With 37 appearances and seven goals in tangerine, Sporle tops the charts for United games played by an Argentine and is second only to Damian Casalinuovo’s tally of eight goals.

He now hopes to add to those totals and please his growing support, including the Dundee United fan club back in Argentina that hero-worship him.

“I am very happy to have achieved this,” he said.

“I hope I can score more goals and make more appearances for Dundee United.

“I am in the history of Dundee United and this makes me very happy.

“I knew about a couple of fans who were going to come to watch me here but I did not know there was a club!

“A couple have messaged me on social media and it is nice to be a favourite.”

ANALYSIS: Dundee United’s Argentinian connection

As for the future, it’s a tall order with the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero ahead of him in the pecking order, but Sporle does hold international ambitions.

With a German grandfather, however, if it doesn’t work out with Argentina he can always give Die Mannschaft a call.

“It’s a dream to play for Argentina, I would like to do that one day,” he smiled.

“Getting called up for the German national team would be very tough, the same for Argentina, it would be a hard opportunity to get.”

At the rate he is progressing, however, you would be foolish to bet against Adrian Sporle.

ANALYSIS: How do Dundee United’s attacking stats compare to the rest of the Premiership?