July 10, 2018 / 1:43 PM / in 3 months

Sporting give Fernandes new 5-year contract to halt exodus

LISBON, July 10 (Reuters) - Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes, one of nine players who quit Sporting Lisbon last month after an attack by angry supporters, rejoined the club on Tuesday, saying he believed it had a more stable future.

Fernandes, 23, signed until 2023 with a release clause set at 100 million euros ($117 million). He said he had received better offers from other clubs but chose to return after Sporting guaranteed improved security for him, other players and their families.

He said an invasion in May of the club’s training camp by hooded supporters, some armed with sticks, in which Dutch forward Bas Dost was injured and the dressing room was vandalised, “left its marks”, but things were now looking up.

“It doesn’t matter who is to blame, now it is over. Sporting is opening a new page and I believe it will be very good,” he told a news conference.

Fernandes, who was part of the Portugal squad at the World Cup, would not confirm or deny media reports that he had doubled his money under his new contract.

“What I said was that I did not want to improve the contract... I have done no blackmail. If it were for the financial side, I would not be here,” he said.

Interim club president Jose Sousa Cintra lauded Fernandes over this attitude as “a case apart, the best as a player and a person”.

Sporting members overwhelmingly voted last month to remove president Bruno de Carvalho, whom the nine players had blamed for stoking anger among fans with his public rebuke of the team over their performance last season.

Carvalho will still run for club presidency in September.

Fernandes did not rule out that other players may return to Sporting, but said he could only speak for himself.

Most have already been signed by other clubs, including Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, now with Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English Premier League.

Dost also quit the club, as did Argentina midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia and Portuguese players Daniel Podence, Gelson Martins, William Carvalho, Rafael Leao and Ruben Ribeiro. ($1 = 0.8538 euros) (Reporting By Andrei Khalip Editing by Keith Weir)

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