According to a report from Caught Offside, Manchester United have been tracking Benfica’s talented youngster Joao Neves and are eyeing a centre-back as their primary target in 2024, despite potential interest elsewhere in a winger and right-back.
Fabrizio Romano, in his exclusive Daily Briefing column for Caught Offside, indicates that United’s plans align with his previous insights. They continue to prioritize strengthening their defense, with Lisandro Martinez sidelined due to injury and Raphael Varane facing a downturn in favor under Erik ten Hag. While the Red Devils are keeping tabs on Neves, Romano’s remarks imply that the young Portuguese midfielder might not be an immediate focus for the club amidst their defensive strengthening objectives.
Joao Neves’ Impressive Ascension at Benfica
Beginning his journey at Benfica’s youth academy at just 12 years old, Joao Neves steadily progressed through the ranks, earning numerous accolades along the way. In the 2021/22 season, he played a pivotal role in Benfica’s UEFA Youth League triumph, a historic achievement for a Portuguese club in the competition. His breakout performance last season solidified his standing in the midfield, securing a spot in the starting lineup for the ongoing season.
Despite being only 19 years old, Neves has already made 15 appearances for Benfica across various competitions, contributing with a goal and an assist. In Liga Portugal, his averages per game include 0.7 shots, 0.6 key passes, 1.4 successful dribbles, 2.4 tackles, 0.7 interceptions, and 0.9 clearances. Notably, he boasts an impressive passing accuracy of 90.6% in the Portuguese top flight, highlighting his precision in distributing the ball to teammates (statistics sourced from Whoscored).
Should The Manchester United Boss Prioritize Acquiring Defensive Reinforcements?
Neves’ impressive surge in football has firmly positioned him among Europe’s top young midfield talents, showcasing the excellence cultivated in Benfica’s renowned youth academy.
His standout quality lies in a diverse skill set, encompassing intelligence, precise passing, and an admirable work ethic. Neves’ versatility as a midfielder, excelling in multiple positions, makes him invaluable to teams like Man United, Chelsea, and even Manchester City.
At only 19, Joao Neves has already achieved significant milestones in his budding career, contributing notably to both Benfica and the Portuguese national team. His potential to evolve into an elite midfielder is evident.
However, Manchester United’s immediate need for defensive reinforcements due to Lisandro Martinez’s absence and Raphael Varane’s decreased favor under Erik ten Hag is critical. Prioritizing the acquisition of an experienced defender should take precedence, deferring the pursuit of Neves until the summer transfer window.