After producing some excellent performances for Barry Robson’s side, Aberdeen striker Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes has been named Cinch Premiership Player of the Month for March. Duk started the month off with a bang with a lovely taken backheel goal in a 2-1 victory against Dundee United at Tannadice, and he followed that up by scoring two against at Pittodrie in the Dons’ 3-0 win over Hearts.
The 23-year-old has scored 15 goals with six assists in all competitions this season since arriving in the summer from Benfica and has emerged as a key figure in attack for The Dandies. After winning the award, Duk told Aberdeen’s website how grateful he is to the fans for their support and for helping him settle into Scottish football.
“I am so pleased to have won this award. Since I arrived at the club, I have had fantastic support from the fans and have been able to go out and play my game and score goals. When you get the backing that I do from the fans, it gives you a lot more confidence when you go onto the pitch, and they help me do unbelievable things.
I also have fantastic teammates. It is like a family. There is great morale in the dressing room because we all support each other, and this is the most important thing in football.”
Duk was born in Cape Verde and moved to Portugal with his parents while he was still at primary school. Duk started off playing as a centre-back, and Sporting Lisbon signed him at the age of 12, but he was released because of his size. After being released, Duk dropped down a few levels and joined the small club Motelvarenes and remained to play his football in the Portuguese capital, and he caught the eye of coach Roberto Rocha, who now helps look after the player.
Rocha invited Duk to join a U15s team that he had set up and recalls early memories of the future Aberdeen striker. Speaking to BBC Scotland, Rocha said: “I talked with my friends of Sporting and Benfica, who have the best players, and asked them to recommend who would be good for my team.
“One of them said there is this kid in Montelavarenses, the smallest club you can imagine. He was good, but he was dismissed by Sporting, so I sent someone to scout him. When he got there, he was the best player on the pitch and top scorer – he had 49 goals that season which is not normal even for a small club. So we invited him to come and train with us.”
Rocha admitted that they were close to releasing Duk due to his small stature until he stunned Rocha with an incredible performance in a training session. He added: “He had this moment when there was a free kick, and I said: ‘Duk, if you want, take the free kick’ to see what he could do. He takes the free kick and puts the ball in the corner. Very strong, impactful coming from a very small kid was not normal. It was not his strength, but his technique that put the ball there.”
That was the moment Rocha decided to sign the young striker, who instantly made an impact getting off to the best start possible with a hat trick against FC Porto and finishing the season as the top goal scorer at the U15 level. Duk went on to sign for Belenenes and continued his clinical form in front of goal, scoring 20 goals in 13 matches at the youth level.
Duk’s form caught the eye of Sporting, but the 17-year-old decided to sign for city rivals Benfica in 2017. The striker was unable to make a first-team appearance but managed to score six goals in eight starts for Benfica B. Aberdeen signed Duk for a fee of £400,000 last summer, and after a period of the striker getting accustomed to Scottish football, he has quickly become a fan favourite with his dazzling performances. He has a bright future in football and is coming on from strength to strength every week.
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Craig Foy – SNS Group