Portugal’s next midfield maestro? Manchester United interested in Benfica’s João Neves
Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, rivals Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes and Fulham’s João Paulhinha have a combined market value of €210 million and could form one of the strongest midfield trifectas in world football right now for Portugal. That’s not to mention the likes of Matheus Nunes, Vitinha and Rúben Neves who would be waiting in the wings on the bench if manager Roberto Martínez was to opt for the aforementioned three.
And there might just be another midfield maestro coming through Portugal’s ranks - Benfica’s 19-year-old holding midfielder João Neves, who made his international debut off the bench against Bosnia and Herzegovina last month, and is included in the latest squad for the Euro qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Iceland. He is currently valued at €20m and Man United are reported to be interested in bringing the teenager to Old Trafford.
Neves’ career so far
Neves has wrestled his way to becoming a regular starter in the team top of the Portuguese league - Benfica, and the young midfielder is certainly making his mark. No player has won more tackles than Neves’ 23 in the league this season. He also ranks third in the whole of the league for the amount of touches this campaign, and only team mate Fredrik Aursnes has made more passes among all midfielders. And in the Champions League this season, despite Benfica struggling, sitting bottom of the group with 0 points, only Mats Hummels has made more tackles in the entire competition in the first four group games.
Area manager in Portugal for Transfermarkt, Marcel de Almeida reveals more about the youngster and his time at Benfica, “Already at his young age, João Neves is very mature in his playing style. He is always available in the centre of midfield and ready to pass forward to his teammates. He has a wide range of passing and is very intelligent. His performances have led to him being called up for the national team, where he has already made his debut and impressed. He is very likely to be involved in the upcoming European Championships in Germany.
“At Benfica he is always one of the best, and in his current form, he is one of the top three players in Liga Portugal. His market values will continue to increase. If things continue like this, Benfica will not be able to keep him for much longer, as there is already interest from Manchester United, among others. He will therefore be one of Benfica's next big sales and will likely generate another high transfer fee for the club.”
Would Neves be the right fit for Manchester United
“He's an excellent player and an excellent kid, very professional. I would really like to have him by my side, because he has quality and will have a bright future.” Fernandes told Sport TV about Neves while on international duty. And that admiration from the Man United captain speaks volumes about the hope and expectation on the 19 year old's shoulders from within the footballing world. Neves recently signed a new deal with Benfica which runs through to 2028 and has a release clause of £103m. When comparing his stats to those in Erik ten Hag’s midfield currently, it becomes evident why the teenager could be the springboard for an upturn in performances and results for Man United.
If we analyse Neves’ stats against Casemiro, Scott Mctominay, Sofyan Amrabat and Christian Eriksen, we can see that Neves beats them all for interceptions, tackles won, total passes, touches and recoveries in the league this season. Whilst not many could argue the Portuguese league is the same standard as the Premier League, to be bettering all of those players, in all of those categories, at just 19, indicates Neves would already be a much needed upgrade to Ten Hag’s armoury in midfield.
The Red Devils have been linked with a whole host of other midfielders this season, as they look to rejuvenate their struggling side and bring in younger legs to eventually replace the 31-year-old duo of Casemiro and Eriksen. Man United have had an average possession of just 52.9% this season in the Premier League - the 9th best in the league. Real Betis’ Guido Rodríguez, 18-year-old Royal Antwerp midfielder Arthur Vermeeren, Milan’s Tijjani Reijnders and Neves have all reportedly had interest from the 13 time Premier League Champions.
Which other stars are coming through for Portugal?
All-time top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo may be coming towards the end of his illustrious career, but Portugal could have something of a golden generation brewing. They have no less than 11 players, aged 24 or under, valued at €30m or higher. AC Milan’s electric forward Rafael Leão leads the group, valued at €90m, and with reported interest from Bayern Munich and Man City. PSG left-back Nuno Mendes is valued at €65m, whilst team mate Gonçalo Ramos and Barcelona’s João Felix have a market value of €50m.
Top 20 Most Valuable Portuguese Players
Updated November 17th, 2023