Erik ten Hag’s squad reconstruction at Manchester United has gotten its first addition in Mason Mount this transfer window, but the club has also set their sights on Benfica’s rising star, Joao Neves.
At just 18 years old, Neves is already attracting global attention following his breakout season with Benfica. In a single season, he featured in 20 games, including three UEFA Champions League appearances, drawing comparisons to Ruben Neves, the Wolves’ midfield stalwart.
Gianluca Di Marzio, the transfer market expert, reports that United’s interest in Neves is significant. However, they’re not alone in the pursuit; Bayern Munich and Wolves are also said to be keen on the promising young player.
Potential obstacles to a deal include Neves’ release clause, which is likely to jump from €60m (£52m) to €100m (£86m) with a proposed new contract on the horizon after the U21 European Championship.
Who exactly is Joao Neves?
Coming to the limelight in the 2022/23 season, Neves is Benfica’s latest prodigy. His journey to first-team football began in December the previous year, and he’s been steadily rising since then.
A move for Neves draws parallels to Manchester United’s acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo two decades ago, with both players making the breakthrough at 18 years old. Of course, the young Neves, a central midfielder, might not match Ronaldo’s goal scoring record, but he offers Ten Hag valuable versatility in both advanced and defensive roles.
Neves’ statistics provide insight into his potential. His passing, defensive abilities, and aerial prowess put him in the upper percentile of players in similar positions across Europe. He’s rated in the top 4% for passes attempted per 90 (73.65), top 2% for tackles per 90 (3.83), top 1% for blocks per 90 (2.21), and top 6% for aerials won per 90 (2.06).
His strong debut season has drawn praise from talent scouts, including Jacek Kulig, who labelled him as “highly talented” along with other Benfica prodigies.
Given United’s successful ventures into the Portuguese market in the past (with Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes as shining examples), Ten Hag might be hoping to repeat history with the promising Neves.