Benfica manager Roger Schmidt is insistent that the club do not want either Antonio Silva or Joao Neves to leave in the January transfer window.
While the biggest deals are always done in summer, the January transfer window has thrown up some major moves including Enzo Fernandez leaving Benfica for Chelsea for a British-record £106.8m.
Chelsea had been chasing Fernandez for most of the window, and Schmidt had been frustrated at the Blues’ approach as they tried to negotiate paying lower than his release clause despite Benfica making it clear that would be the only way he’d leave. In the end, Schmidt dubbed Chelsea “disrespectful”, but the Blues eventually coughed up the fee to get their man.
Fernandez has been one of a few shining lights for Chelsea’s team in 2023, but Benfica have already moved on from their man, bringing Joao Neves up from the academy to become a part of their midfield. The teenager has played 25 times across all competitions for Benfica this season, helping them to second in the Primeira Liga, just one point off leaders Sporting CP coming back from the mini Christmas break.
Always looking to get on the ball, and key to Benfica’s play, Neves averages 99.58 touches per 90 minutes in the Primeira Liga this season — the third-highest in the division. He also averages 75.87 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 defensie third.
According to reports, Neves has caught the eye of a number of clubs including Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle United, meaning Benfica may have a fight on their hands to keep hold of the teenager. Further reports claim that Neves does have a release clause of £104m, which Benfica want to increase with a new contract.
He isn’t the only player on the radar of other clubs either. Also subject to interest from the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Real Madrid is centre-back Antonio Silva. Another academy graduate, Silva made his breakthrough to the first team last season and has grown over the past year, making Portugal’s squad for the 2022 World Cup where he played once.
So far this season, Silva has missed just one league game and has the best pass accuracy in the Primeira Liga (among those with at least seven games played) at 92.65%. He has also averaged 71.83 touches, 3.23 clearances and 4.62 possessions won in the defensive third, the latter the third-best in the Primeira Liga.
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While Benfica prepare for their final game of the year, attention in Schmidt’s press conference did turn to the January transfer window which opens at the start of next week.
“In my opinion, the winter transfer window is always very special and different from the summer one,” Schmidt told reporters.
“Of course, sometimes, some adjustments are made to the squad, because there are players who are not happy, or have not had the playing time they expected and, therefore, we are always trying to see our squad and are prepared for some changes. Whether there will be changes in January, I cannot say today.
“We know the market, at the moment we have a very good team, we are doing well overall, as I said. We expect Juan Bernat, Alexander Bah and David Neres to return in January, maybe mid-January. Then we will have a different situation. We are not under pressure. If something happens or doesn’t happen, we’re fine.”
When asked specifically about Silva and Neves, Schmidt added: “I talk to the players every day. We are halfway through the season, and, of course, we have big goals for Benfica.
“We don’t want to let any of these players leave, because we need them to catch up. Nobody wants to leave, I have no doubt about that.”