Football Features

Arsenal transfer targets: Why Gunners should sign teenage sensation Joao Neves

By Will Evans

Published: 13:35, 4 June 2024 | Updated: 13:27, 12 June 2024

Arsenal could be set to splash the cash on Portuguese starlet Joao Neves.

The Gunners are believed to be on the hunt for a defensive midfielder, as Mikel Arteta looks to strengthen his squad ahead of next season.

And Neves is one of Europe’s hottest prospects in that position, having starred for Benfica in 2023/24.

Here’s why Arsenal should break the bank to sign the Lisbon club’s highly-rated prodigy.

In-possession impact

Arsenal may need to pay Neves’ reported £102million release clause to bring him to North London, but the 19-year-old looks worth every penny.

He plays with a maturity that belies his youth and was a key figure for Benfica as they finished second — amassing 2,313 minutes of league action last term.

The teenager is constantly looking to get on the ball, with only Sporting’s Goncalo Inacio (2,701) registering more touches in Portugal’s top flight than his 2,524.

Os Encarnados’ No.87 is then composed when in possession, attempting (1,995) and completing (1,794) the second-most passes in the division.

That is not to suggest that Neves plays it safe with his distribution, however. In fact, he ranked inside the league’s top 10 players for completed passes into the final third (385).

All-round game

Neves also drives play forward by picking up the ball in deeper areas and dribbling through midfield.

His agility allows him to consistently evade opponents — completing a notably high 41 take-ons across the campaign.

But the five-cap Portuguese international’s defensive attributes are just as impressive.

He made 65 tackles and 35 interceptions last term, while ranking fourth in the Primeira Liga for possession regains in the middle third of the pitch (109).

Benfica’s star man is combative in the air, too, winning a commendable 42 aerial duels despite his slight 5ft 9in frame.

Sought-after talent

With a remarkably broad skill set at such a young age, it is no surprise that Europe’s elite clubs are clamouring for Neves’ signature.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are all believed to have expressed interest, so Arsenal will face stiff competition.

Nonetheless, the prospect of such a talented youngster plying his trade at the Emirates Stadium is a tantalising one.

A pairing of Neves and Declan Rice would be among the world’s best central midfield combinations, supporting the equally talented Martin Odegaard.

There is little doubt that signing the Benfica star would significantly boost the Gunners’ title hopes next season.