Arguably never before has the world been so focused on the Lisbon derby between Sporting CP and Benfica, and it has nothing really to do with either of the historic clubs involved. The question on everyone’s lips is: will Fernandes play?
Between Thursday night and Friday morning there have been contradictory claims about just how close to completion this proposed transfer is.
Portuguese broadcast TVI24 were focusing on the idea that the deal might be at risk because Sporting were refusing to come down from their €65m price tag. But with United apparently only offering €50m plus add-ons, there was still a €15m (£12.8m) difference in the basic fee.
The same evening, however, Portuguese football legend Paulo Futre, once briefly of West Ham but more famously of Porto and Atletico Madrid, claimed the opposite on a different network.
Futre suggested on CMTV, which is linked to newspaper Correio da Manha, that only ‘very small details’ were left to be agreed. In turn, he claimed that it remains possible that Fernandes might not play against Benfica because a transfer agreement could be reached before then.
Those ‘details’ appeared to Andreas Pereira on loan or more add-ons if the player refused.
It is worth noting here that Sport Witness warns that Correio da Manha was somewhat guilty of sensationalising various things last summer, beyond just the original Fernandes saga.
In the hours since, A Bola appears to be on the side of CMTV rather than TVI24.
That report, which is also summarised by Sport Witness, suggests that the transfer has been ‘accelerated’ by United, who want the deal ‘closed’ before the Friday night derby – he would therefore miss the game as a result.
There is certainly a sound logic to that out of fear Fernandes could pick up an injury.
On the subject of whether he plays, Sporting have named their squad to face Benfica and Fernandes is part of it. That does not necessarily he will be on the pitch if there is any definitive changes prior to the line-up being submitted an hour before kick-off.
A Bola reported that United are ready to make their formal written offer. Given that personal terms are already thought to have been agreed, that should be the final step. The numbers in question are €60m plus €10m in add-ons, or €65m plus €5m in add-ons. Either way it appears that Sporting will be getting most, if not all, of the fee they were earlier rumoured to want.
Sporting are clearly determined to get as much cash as possible guaranteed. If the fee was a flat €70m, this is how A Bola split it:— Sport Witness (@Sport_Witness) January 16, 2020
€37.3m – Sporting
€16m – Bank payment for debt restructuring
€7m – Agents
€6.15m – Sampdoria %
€3.5m – Solidarity payment
Sky Sports have since weighed in to also suggest that the deal will hit that €70m mark, or £60m. It will be made up of a £43m basic fee and supplemented by £17m in various add-ons. That includes no United players, on loan or otherwise, heading to Lisbon as part of the deal.
Earlier this week, reports suggested that Fernandes could be in attendance at Anfield on Sunday to watch his new teammates in action against Liverpool. If a deal is agreed relatively soon and he travels to England to finalise the move, that is certainly still a plausible scenario.
United fans, be warned, though. Fernandes is still just a footballer and not the Messiah; he will need time to settle and cannot reasonably be expected to single-handedly save the season.