Manchester United's pursuit of Benfica starlet Renato Sanches has received a sizeable boost after Manchester City reportedly decided against joining the race for his signature.
According to the Manchester Evening News, the 18-year-old midfielder has caught the eye of Pep Guardiola, who will take over from Manuel Pellegrini this summer.
However, while the Spanish manager recognises Sanches as a potentially world-class player, he has decided to instead pursue other midfield targets.
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The Citizens are believed to be closing in on a deal for Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan and are also hopeful of signing Juventus star Paul Pogba and/or Real Madrid's Toni Kroos.
Gundogan could arrive at the Etihad for as little as £14m and is an established Germany international. In comparison, Sanches is untested in Europe's top five leagues yet Benfica are reportedly demanding as much as £40m for him.
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While money is not a problem for the oligarch owners of Manchester City, Guardiola is still trying to maximise his resources ahead of what promises to be a summer of upheaval for the club.
Indeed, Pogba would definitely cost a British record transfer with the Serie A champions believed to be holding out for £71m. With huge wage demands as well, signing the French midfielder would leave little left for overpriced hot prospects.
Guardiola would have seen Sanches firsthand during Bayern's recent Champions League quarter-final tie against Benfica and was allegedly impressed. But he has told City's sporting director Txiki Begiristain to concentrate on his high-profile targets.
That stance is great news for Manchester United, who find themselves at the front of a one-club queue to bag Sanches' signature. Like with Anthony Martial in the previous summer, Ed Woodward will not hesitate to pay over the odds for one of Europe's brightest young talents, especially now the French striker has proven a worthy addition despite his £36m transfer fee.
Eyebrows were raised when Martial signed from Monaco in a deal that could eventually rise to £58m, but the 19-year-old has emerged as one of Europe's deadliest young strikers, scoring 14 goals and providing seven assists in his debut season in England.
And in this case, it seems everyone at Old Trafford agrees that Sanches is worth the financial outlay. A report in the Guardian claimed that even Sir Alex Ferguson, now a director at United, had given his seal of approval with regards to a big money bid for the Portugal international.
While Ferguson retains no actual power over the decisions at the club he used to rule, his opinion is one that both Woodward and Louis van Gaal would be wise to listen to.
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