Bruno Fernandes has informed Sporting Lisbon he would like to join Manchester United this month if a deal can be struck between the clubs.
Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, and Matt Judge, the head of corporate development, held talks with the Sporting Lisbon president, Frederico Varandas, at the club’s Stratton Street offices in London’s Mayfair on Friday morning.
Varandas returned to Portugal to chew over United’s proposal and Fernandes remains hopeful an agreement can be reached.
Sporting were initially thought to be looking for as much as €80 million (£68.5m) for Fernandes but United are believed to value the 25-year-old, who has 67 goals in 133 appearances for the Portuguese club, at closer to £50m.
While United have bought a series of players from Portugal down the years, most recently Victor Lindelof from Benfica and Diogo Dalot from Porto, the club’s name has also often been used to try to create a market for players.
Tottenham looked tentatively at Fernandes last summer but ended up signing Giovani Lo Celso on loan from Real Betis and Sporting’s hopes of creating an auction for the Sporting man this month were damaged by Spurs targeting a loan deal for Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes.
United briefly explored a move for Fernandes last summer only to be put off by Sporting’s £75m-plus valuation of the Portugal attacking midfielder. They balked similarly at the £50m price tag Newcastle put on midfielder Sean Longstaff.
With Sporting subsequently lowering their demands for Fernandes the prospect of a deal has now been revived, although there are still a number of hurdles to cross. Sporting are also reported to have a degree of interest in taking a United player on loan, with the name of Marcos Rojo - who joined United from Sporting for £16m in 2014 - tentatively floated, although it is unclear at this stage if such a scenario might happen.
Asked at the weekend if Fernandes would be available to face Benfica in Friday’s Lisbon derby, Jorge Silas, the Sporting coach, said: “I can’t guarantee any of these things because I don’t know. Bruno is a huge player and all players like him have a lot of [interest from the] market. I don’t like to think about it, but I’ll be thinking of alternatives in case Bruno leaves. I hope it doesn’t happen, but we have to start thinking that.”
If United were to sign Fernandes for a significantly smaller sum than the fees being touted last summer, they may consider the decision a wise one, even though the need for midfield reinforcements this season has been pressing following the departure of Ander Herrera and, prior to that, Marouane Fellaini.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s options in that department have been further reduced by the loss to injury of his two key midfielders, Scott McTominay, who has been ruled out until the end of February with knee ligament damage, and Paul Pogba.
Pogba missed almost three months with an ankle injury and then suffered a fresh problem to his right ankle that required surgery last week and will keep him out until next month.
Fernandes has two goals in 19 appearances for Portugal and a reputation for being a solid, loyal character, know for his professionalism. After a youth career spent predominantly at Boavista after being overlooked by Portugal’s big three of Sporting, Benfica and Porto, Fernandes moved to Italy, where he spent five years with mixed results before returning home. His performances for Novara in Serie B had caught the attention of Udinese, with whom he spent three seasons before a move to Sampdoria. After just a year there, he joined Sporting.
Nemanja Matic was eyeing a move this month, amid interest from Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid and Chicago Fire, but Solskjaer is currently reluctant to allow the Serbia midfielder to depart following McTominay and Pogba’s injuries. Ashley Young’s proposed move to Inter Milan is also currently on hold with Solskjaer concerned about losing the veteran full-back in mid-season.
Solskjaer insists he has been lobbying Woodward for signings this month but is adamant he will not seek short-term fixes he later regrets. Woodward and the Glazer family, United’s owner, were the subject of sustained abuse from sections of the Old Trafford crowd during Saturday’s 4-0 win against Norwich City. United face Wolves in an FA Cup third-round replay at Old Trafford on Wednesday before visiting runaway Premier League leaders, Liverpool, at Anfield four days later.
United have a serious interest in Donny van de Beek but the Ajax and Holland midfielder ruled out the prospect of a move in the winter window over the weekend and is also wanted by Real Madrid. Similarly, United accept there is no chance of prising James Maddison from Leicester City this month.