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Manchester City have stolen a march on Manchester United in the race to sign Benfica wonderkid Joao Neves, according to reports. United were thought to be leading Chelsea in the battle to sign Neves as early as January, but the Red Devils’ bitter rivals could be set to land a sour transfer blow.
According to 90min, the 19-year-old midfielder has recently impressed scouts of City and United, among other European heavyweights, with his performances for Benfica.
Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are said to be also monitoring Neves’ progress in Portugal after an impressive breakthrough 2022/23 campaign.
Neves made 17 appearances as Benfica tasted Primeira Liga success, acting as Enzo Fernandez’s replacement after he completed a £105million switch to Chelsea.
His recent displays have earned him his first call-up to Roberto Martinez’s Portugal squad for this month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
United scouts will likely be keeping a keen eye on Neves, but could soon be resigned to losing him to City.
90min add that City believe he is ready to make the switch to England as part of a midfield overhaul that saw Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes arrive and Ilkay Gundogan leave in the summer.
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However, Benfica aren’t expected to let Neves go easily, given he is under contract with the Lisbon giants until 2028 and is the subject of a £103m release clause.
The Sun claim that Benfica have no intention of losing Neves in the January transfer window due to his status as a regular starter under Roger Schmidt.
A United scout was reportedly in attendance for Benfica’s clash with Estoril last week, in which Neves made his eighth successive start.
He has a wise transfer voice in his camp, represented by super-agent Jorge Mendes, who is no stranger to dealing with United.
Neves has been dubbed ‘Bruno Fernandes 2.0’ in some quarters due to his similar playstyle to the United captain.
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He has boasted strong tackling, blocking and progressive passing numbers since his emergence on the senior scene.
Fernandes is now 29, and United will be thrust into a daunting position where they will have to start considering potential replacements for the Portuguese playmaker.
Neves may pose as an attractive candidate, depending on how he continues to develop at Benfica.
However, Pep Guardiola and his treble-winning side’s prominence in the race for his signature could prove to be bad news for Erik ten Hag.
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