Marco Almeida has returned to Sporting Lisbon halfway through his loan period at The Dell.

Saints agreed to let the central defender go back to the Portuguese club early because his opportunities here were becoming increasingly limited.

Almeida was hungry for first-team football and was dismayed not to figure against coventry when Claus Lundekvam was suspended.

Manager Dave jones opted instead for the experience of Francis Benali, recalling Almeida's Premiership debut when Thierry Henry spun past to score Arsenal's late winner.

Jones said: "It was a mutual decision. He wanted first-team football and he wanted it now but he could not see a way past Dean Richards and Claus Lundekvam.

"Sporting have first claim on him and he wanted to go back to Portugal and we have heard his agent was touting him around. We could have made an issue of it but the lad wanted to go so we have agreed to release him early.

"He started off well here but it was a question of whether he could adapt to the English style of play. We have cover in Jo Tessem, Jason Dodd and Francis Benali and we were on the look-out for another centre-back anyway."

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