Lion City Sailors have unveiled midfielder Rui Pires as their third signing in the past week, adding quality to the club’s midfield engine room and strengthening the squad for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League campaign.

With Rui signing a two-year contract and joining the Sailors’ two mid-season signings in defender Bailey Wright and forward Richairo Živković, the Sailors have moved to ensure quality across the spine of the team as the club prepares to embark on its second ACL campaign in September.

Prior to signing up as a Sailor, the 25-year-old Rui plied his trade as a defensive midfielder for FC Paços de Ferreira in the Primeira Liga, the top tier of Portuguese football. Known for his astute positional sense and defensive abilities, the right-footed midfielder has been key in protecting backlines in every team he has played for.

Rui began his journey in the acclaimed youth system of FC Porto, where he progressed through the ranks, featuring prominently in its Under-15, U17, and U19 sides. He was subsequently promoted to Porto’s B side, competing in Liga Portugal 2, the second tier of Portuguese football. 

After a successful stint, Rui made a permanent move to French second-tier side Troyes in July 2019. Following two seasons in France and winning the 2020/21 Ligue 2 title, he returned to Portugal on loan with FC Paços de Ferreira before securing a permanent deal.

“Rui could well be the final piece of the jigsaw for us. More than just experience from his time in Europe, Rui’s sharp positioning, anticipation and tackling can be the defensive shield that gives our frontline to attack in the way that we want,” said Aleksandar Ranković, who was appointed Sailors Head Coach in June. 

“The ACL is where we will test ourselves against the best in Asia, and to have Rui fit into the spine of our team will give us a good platform to go out there and compete for the results that will put the Sailors on the map of Asian football.” 

During his time with Paços Ferreira, Rui demonstrated his capabilities on the European stage, making two appearances in the UEFA Europa Conference League Qualifiers. Notably, he played the full 90 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur in the Qualifying Round 2nd leg, showcasing his composure and skill at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Rui has also captained various age-group teams for Portugal, earning call-ups – and the armband – at the U18, U19, and U20 levels. His standout performances in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2017 led to his inclusion in the prestigious Team of the Tournament.

“I joined the Sailors because I want to be part of a project that has big ambitions and all the right pieces in place: the conditions I see here are like what I see in Europe, with the Training Centre and the system in the Academy. But perhaps more important is that the club has high expectations and clearly wants to win trophies,” said Rui. 

“I know the ACL is a tough competition, but from what I have seen in our team, I believe we can do something there, compete and win matches too.”

The Sailors finished with seven points in the club’s maiden journey into the top-tier regional competition last season.

“The Sailors are the best club in Singapore, and the club’s mentality exactly matches my own: I want to keep playing at the highest level, win matches for the Sailors, and I promise you I will keep doing the right things that can help us win titles.”