Manchester United send scouts to watch Benfica teenage prodigy Joao Neves

Manchester United are tracking Benfica teenage prodigy Joao Neves ahead of a potential January bid.

Joao Neves benfica

Joao Neves, 19, broke into Benfica’s senior side last season and played 17 games on their way to a league title triumph. He has continued his fine form into the 2023/24 campaign and has been rewarded with a call-up for the first time to the Portugal national team for the October international break.

Manchester United are among a number of top clubs interested in signing the Benfica midfielder. Erik ten Hag is reportedly driving his club’s pursuit of Neves, instructing the scouts to keep close tabs on the player who is also on the radar of cross-town rivals Manchester City. The Man United scout was present in Benfica’s league fixture against Estoril last week, where the 19-year-old made his eighth league appearance in a row.

Neves, who has been one of the Eagles’ standout performers so far this season, recently signed a new deal with Benfica until the summer of 2028 and has a release clause of £103 million.

Man United eyeing long-term Casemiro replacement?

Casemiro earned plaudits for transforming Man United’s midfield last season following his £70m move from Madrid in 2022. He played a crucial role in helping the Red Devils win the Carabao Cup in Erik ten Hag’s debut season in charge of the club, scoring a bullet header in the final against Newcastle United.

However, the Brazilian has come under significant criticism this season for his lackadaisical displays and has even been targeted by some teams due to his poor form in a United shirt. The 31-year-old’s half-time substitution against Brentford was indicative of the Red Devils’ problems after the defensive midfielder was at fault for Mathias Jensen’s opener for the visitors.

With Casemiro well into his 30s and on the decline, Ten Hag may have already started planning for the Brazilian’s departure as early as next year. And his interest in Joao Neves is suggestive of that, with the Portuguese teenager controlling the tempo and operating as the steering wheel behind Benfica’s racing engine this season. He has played 11 times this term, mostly as a defensive midfielder, though the player is still showing signs of adaptation to various roles in the centre of the pitch.

Neves is a fantastic passer of the ball from the deep, and his ability to break up opposition attacks and regain possession for his side quickly will certainly help Ten Hag’s side shore up defensively. A good reader of the game too, he likes to position himself well and dictate the tempo of play for Benfica.

The Portuguese is an exciting young talent with a bright future ahead of him and could be viewed as Casemiro’s potential long-term successor by United. Neves has a release clause of £103 million and Benfica will not be bullied into selling their prized assets on the cheap, so United must break the bank to sign him in January.

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