Manchester United are spreading their net far and wide as they build for the long-term future.
Last year the club paid around £9m to sign Hannibal Mejbri, then still only 16, from Monaco. The young Frenchman has already caught the eye of the coaching staff with his immense talent and seemingly only lacking physical maturity has stopped him reaching the first-team already.
There is also talk that the club will soon capture 16-year-old Barcelona full-back Marc Jurado
United are also thought to be keen on emerging Argentine talent Thiago Almada, who has been playing first-team football for Velez Sarsfield since 2018.
Portuguese left-back Nuno Mendes is the next name on the list.
According to Record, United were interested in Mendes at the same time as Bruno Fernandes, who made the switch to Old Trafford in January. The 17-year-old’s name is said to have been part of those negotiations, although the deal struck did not include in the end.
Mendes, who will turn 18 in June, is said to be represented by Miguel Pinho, the same agent who represents Bruno Fernandes and is obviously well known to United by now.
Sporting, whose financial position has been reported as not the best for several months – even before the coronavirus crisis – appear to see another opportunity to cash in because president Frederico Varandas hasn’t shied away from publicly hyping Mendes.
“He’s the best Under 19 left-back in Europe,” was his description of the player just this week.
Varandas has claimed ‘major European clubs’ have already made ‘concrete proposals’. Record’s report seems to be fairly certain one of those un-named sides is United.
A separate Record article tells the story of a shy, polite and hard working boy, as told by former coaches who have seen him develop. From a character standpoint he ticks the boxes that United are looking for – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in his own words, is not interested in ‘a***holes’.
Mendes is yet to play a first-team game for Sporting and has been part of the club’s Under-23 squad this season. He was, however, with the senior squad for pre-season last summer and appeared from the bench in a friendly against Liverpool in New York, a game that ended 2-2.
As things stand, he is only under contract at Sporting until the summer of 2021, which could play into United’s hands if they are serious about trying to buy him.
United have generally had good relations with Sporting over the years, having famously signed Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani from the Lisbon side in 2003 and 2007 respectively, long before reuniting to do business over Fernandes this year.
One report has alleged that Mendes was actually recommended to United by Nani, whose third spell at Sporting came to an end in early 2019 when he moved to Orlando City. Tabloid stories have put a £10m valuation on the youngster, which is in the region of what United have paid in the past.