Manchester United fans were left bitterly disappointed on Tuesday when it was confirmed that Bayern Munich had won the race to sign Benfica’s highly-rated midfielder Rentato Sanches.
The Red Devils had been strongly linked with the 18-year-old and were reportedly on the brink of securing his signature, only to be pipped at the post by the Bundesliga champions.
However, according to the Daily Mail, United have now switched their attention to Sporting Lisbon’s Joao Mario.
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Five years older than Sanches, Mario is also a Portugal international with bags of pace and skill.
The 23-year-old can play on either wing or through the middle and is expected to star for his country at this summer’s European Championships in France.
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United worry Mario's price will rise
Indeed, this is one of the reasons why United are keen to strike a deal sooner rather than later.
The Premier League giants fear that his price could rise if he catches the eye at Euro 2016.
United face stiff competition for his signature as it is. Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal also have the 5ft 9in midfielder on their radar.
Mario has £47m release clause
If United want the deal done before Euro 2016, though, they may need to pay a cool £47 million - the size of the release clause in Mario’s contract.
Sanches, remember, only cost Bayern Munich £28 million - and few in Portugal would argue that Mario is worth almost £20 million more.
With PSG and Atletico Madrid also reportedly pursuing Mario, however, United may reluctantly agree to pay over the odds for the Sporting ace who has scored a modest six goals in 32 league appearances this season.
Mario can win title this weekend
He will finish the season with a league title to his name if Sporting can leapfrog Benfica on the final day of the season this weekend.
Sporting, who last won the Portuguese title back in 2002, must beat Braga and hope Benfica slip up against Nacional.
United's previous purchases from Sporting
Mario, if he signs, wouldn’t be the first purchase Manchester United have made from the Portuguese club.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both arrived from Sporting - in 2003 and 2007, respectively - as did Marcos Rojo in 2014.
Would Joao Mario be a decent signing for United? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below.
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