Europa League Conference – Before Feyenoord-OM: Luis Sinisterra, the Colombian terror of Rotterdam

He is not at the top of the Eredivisie goalscoring chart. He is not even the most prolific of his club, a rank occupied by Guus Til (15 goals). However, 22-year-old Luis Sinisterra is the man who must have given Jorge Sampaoli’s growing beard the most itching. Twelve goals accompanied by five assists speaks of a player with a major influence on his team’s attacking production, but it is again not the figures – at least not those – that allow us to draw the threat that the young Colombian, who will face Olympique de Marseille, this Thursday (9 p.m.) can represent. But when the statistics site Whoscored notes the overall performance of the Red and Whites, it is the Cafetero which appears largely in the lead.

At his beginnings in Colombia, at Once Caldas, Sinisterra was a simple winger. Twirling, unbalancing, but a little disconnected from the team’s game. This is the player discovered by Herney Duque, when he took over, in 2017, the head of the training center of the Manizales club, the main production center of the famous Colombian coffee. “He was a bit of a soloist, remembers the one who also officiated as interim coach on several occasions. But he quickly learned to play as a team. He now knows how to exploit the intermediate spaces, to associate, to appear in the decision-making zones, even if his strong point remains his ability to unbalance.

A powerful and lethal winger, drawn to the axis

Today, Sinisterra is that winger – his position on the scoresheet – increasingly drawn to the Axis, ever more powerful and lethal. The kind of profile for which the European leaders are scrambling. This season, the names of Arsenal, Newcastle, Naples, AC Milan or Betis have already paraded. LOSC would also be interested, but the competition will probably be too tough for the Northerners.

Europe quickly took interest in Sinisterra, and Colombia were able to enjoy only a small sample of his talent. Arrived late, at nearly 16 years old, at Once Caldas, a club that won the Copa Libertadores in 2004 but which is not yet among the most upscale in the country, he first finds himself on technical unemployment while Boca Juniors Cali, his former amateur club, does not want to release him. However, he quickly made the leap to the first team, in 2016.

“In fact, he never really established himself as a starter, recalls Herney Duque. But we could feel his great character on each of his ball shots, and we knew that he was the kind of player who would interest Europe. In 2017, barely a year after his debut, Sinisterra found himself in Belgium, where he was to join Cercle Brugge, in order to replace his compatriot, José Izquierdo. But after a few days in the Venice of the North and for lack of an agreement with Once Caldas, hope returns to the country.

Luis Sinisterra

Credit: Eurosport

We locked ourselves in and we heard gunshots all night. It was an event that really affected me

These European interests, still according to Duque, somewhat disturb the young man, who was notably trained by the legendary Pacho Maturana. “To avoid injury, he did not always give the maximum, assures Duque. He may even have lost some of his humility. But Luis was a pleasant element, with a rich lexicon, very well educated, especially by his mother, who is a teacher, and put him back on the right track. From 2018, the powerful winger is also called upon to play the sparring partner of the selection before the World Cup.

A year later, he will be one of the driving forces of a U20 selection that will reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Sinisterra had already been a Feyenoord player for a year – he learned in particular alongside Robin van Persie – but it was precisely this success with the selection that would help him gain confidence and start earning his stripes as a starter with the Red and white. In the Netherlands, the Colombian appreciates calm, he who grew up in a conflicting environment. In the town of Santander de Quilichao, about fifty kilometers from Cali and 1,000 meters above sea level, Sinisterra was notably marked by the arrival of FARC guerrillas. “I was eight years old, he confided to Gol Caracol. We were in my father’s business when the guerrillas arrived. We locked ourselves in and we heard gunshots all night. It was an event that really affected me.”

Not yet essential in selection

In Europe, he will face a more banal ordeal for a footballer: a rupture of the cruciate ligaments, in February 2020, which will slow down his progress. At the end of a championship truncated by the emergence of the Covid-19, he had all the same been elected best player of the season by the supporters of Feyenoord, conquered by his extensive repertoire: acrobatic goals, breakthroughs in depth where his power-speed wreaks havoc, supercharged overflows, and then this ease for this “false foot” to transplant towards the axis to unleash a shot from the right, even if he can also surprise with his left foot.

His qualities and his statistics were not, however, enough to make him an essential in the selection, where he still lives in the shadow of Luis Diaz and is sometimes not retained in the 23, which generates debates in a Colombia which just failed to qualify for the World Cup. For lack of anything better, Sinisterra would be satisfied with lifting the Europa League Conference trophy this year. A competition in which the Colombian terror has already shaken the nets five times. OM is warned.

Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord Rotterdam) against Slavia Prague, Thursday April 14, 2022. / Europa League Conference

Credit: Getty Images

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