Benfica have denied holding talks with Manchester United over a move for teenage wonderkid Joao Neves.
The 19-year-old defensive midfielder broke through into Roger Schmidt’s first team last season and is now among the first names in the Eagles’ starting lineup.
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Neves, before this present campaign got underway, penned a new deal that could keep him in the Portuguese capital until June 2028.
That hasn’t stopped reports of a move away for the Tavira native. Man Utd are rumoured to be among those interested with the Daily Mirror naming him a ‘priority’ target in this new Sir Jim Ratcliffe era, with Neves earmarked as Casemiro’s long-term successor.
Negotiations for Neves’ signature were said to be on the slate for the coming weeks, much to Benfica’s surprise.
◉ 20-year-old António Silva has a better ground duel success rate than any other U23 players in the Primeira Liga
◉ 19-year-old João Neves won the most duels in the 23/24 UCL group stage
It sounds like there won't be another Enzo sale in January…
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 29, 2023
“Benfica denies the existence of any right of preference over João Neves,” a club statement read.
“Under no circumstances has Benfica started talks with Manchester United or any other club about João — nor does it intend to do so.”
To date Neves has made 49 appearances for his boyhood club in all competitions, subsequently registering two goals while creating five more.
He also recently made his senior international debut in October 2023 when Roberto Martínez brought him on for the final minutes against Bosnia.
To give you an idea of how key Neves is to Benfica’s play, he averages 99.6 touches per 90 minutes in the Primeira Liga this season — the third-highest in the division. He also averages 75.9 passes with an accuracy of 89.5%, including 18.3 final third passes attempted.
Defensively, Neves averages 2.75 tackles per 90 minutes, with 1.42 interceptions and 1.23 clearances, as well as 3.6 possessions won in the middle third and 3.13 possessions won in the defensive third.
When asked recently about Neves and his teammate Antonio Silva, Benfica manager Roger Schmidt was quick to pour cold water on any Liverpool or Manchester United transfer talk.