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Pione Sisto's scenic route from Uganda to La Liga via Denmark

Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Few players have taken as unusual a career path to stardom as Celta de Vigo’s 22-year-old winger, Pione Sisto. The Ugandan-born Danish international hasn’t allowed anything to hold him back. This season he has been a Primera Division standout. In sublime form for Vigo, Sisto has three goals and ten assists to his name. The Celts are seventh, more than comfortably mid-table in La Liga.

Born in Uganda in 1995, his South Sudanese parents swapped East Africa for Scandinavia when he was still an infant. Denmark was their destination. Sisto’s talent was quickly spotted in the land of Hamlet and Mads Mikkelsson. He signed for Tjorring’s youth team as a child. Developing quickly, he made the move to Midtjylland in 2010. He was just 15. After three years in the Wolves' youth setup Sisto was finally given a first-team opportunity. He became a regular shortly thereafter. In 2014 he was named Danish Football's Player of the Year.

Sisto really became known to international audiences in 2016. Midtjylland reached the Europa League knockout rounds and were drawn against three-time European Champions, Manchester United. Midtjylland stunned United in the home tie, beating them 2-1. Sisto was superb, scoring one of the goals. In the second leg he was on the score sheet again. His efforts saw the Danish minnows threatening an upset but United was too much. The Red Devils recovered to go through. 

Internationally, Sisto could have played for Uganda or Denmark. He opted for the country in which he had been raised. It wasn't a troublefree choice. FIFA's permission was required. It eventually acceded even though Denmark was slower to grant him citizenship. A month later he helped the Danes to the U21 Euros semi-final. He scored the winner in the Red and White's opener against the Czech Republic.

In September 2015 Sisto was called up to the senior squad. Initially he struggled to make an impression. He has since become a regular, starting Denmark's last six competitive fixtures. 

In July 2016 Sisto made the move from Midtjylland to Vigo. He struggled to settle. His first season in La Liga was marked by just three goals and as many assists. Another two strikes were taken in the Europa League, where the Celts reached the semifinal.

There has been a notable increase in his productivity this season. Not only has his end product improved, his overall play has been excellent. He has become a big threat to opposing defences. Right backs are none too happy to deal with him one-v-one. His dribbling is insane; his passing sublime. 

Sisto's form this season has already attracted interest from the Premier League. Southampton must restock before Liverpool or Manchester United come calling again. Barcelona have been monitoring the young Dane as well. 

For now he remains with Vigo. If his form and performances continue as they have, he won't be able to stay. The club will surely cash in on his talent if he does not request a move himself.

Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.

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