Manchester United are set to fight it out with three other clubs as they attempt to land two Benfica starlets this summer, according to reports.
The Daily Express claims that United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all keen on securing the futures of the highly-rated Joao Filipe, dubbed the new Cristiano Ronaldo, and his goalkeeping team-mate Joao Virginia. Both players are aged 15 and so aren’t currently operating on professional contracts, though it’s thought that Benfica have already offered them both deals.
The first of this exciting Portuguese duo, and the one the clubs are likely to have a heightened interest in landing is Filipe, who has accumulated a tag as being the new and upcoming Ronaldo. Predominantly a winger by trade, the youngster is comfortable when deployed anywhere across the attack, and has been steadily attracting the attention of European outfits for some time now.
Though it’s more than likely that any suitors would have to put extensive work in to ensure that Filipe realised his full potential, a move to England, and the notoriously physical style of football which would be offered as a result, would surely improve him as a player.
Whilst it was United that Ronaldo opted for when he first began his ascension to the top of the sport, Arsene Wenger has a proven track record when working with youngsters, and both Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho are looking to provide long-term stability at the top for their respective squads, so it will be interesting to see who he opts for.
Filipe’s team-mate, goalkeeper Virginia, is just as highly-lauded in Portugal, and it’s said that he is held in very high regard at Benfica thanks to his performances for the youth team. Once more one would assume that a switch to the English game early on in his career would stand him in good stead for the future, but with ‘keepers historically not fully blooming until the latter stages of their careers there really isn’t any rush for him.
Who should they opt for?
With both players being so young the fact that United aren’t participating in the Champions League next year, or the idea that Liverpool don’t have the longevity to maintain last season’s terrific form probably won’t factor into their decisions. The thing that matters most will always be which club can offer them the most in terms of developing their careers, and in this respect there isn’t necessarily an underdog.
New United boss Louis van Gaal is famous for given emerging young stars chances to prove themselves once they come of age, whilst Wenger has carved a niche for himself in ensuring skilled teenagers go on to become world-class assets. Chelsea meanwhile have a highly productive loan system in place which allows starlets to leave temporarily in order to garner game-time, and Liverpool are most certainly a club on the up thanks to Rodgers.