Manchester United were said last month to have added Ruben Neves to the club’s summer midfield targets. 90Min.com reported the club’s interest in the Wolves.
This got drowned out amid persistent rumours linking Declan Rice to United, with the MEN claiming the West Ham star may be interested in a move.
There are a couple of reasons a move for Rice is a no-go. Firstly, West Ham are enjoying their best season for years and this would be a disastrous time for them to sell. Secondly, Rice is ludicrously priced with David Moyes quoted by The Telegraph saying it would cost £100 million+ to convince the Hammers to sell.
The third reason, should be that Ruben Neves is a superior player.
Neves an outstanding option
The above statistic underlines the quality Neves possesses. His defensive work is excellent, and he is capable of chipping in with a spectacular goal too.
Data from FBRef.com shows Neves ranks inside the top five per cent of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for blocking passes, and the top seven per cent for his defensive actions leading to a shot attempt from his team.
United need a new defensive midfielder with Matic on the wane, and Neves could be the right player to bring in.
Neves is good on the ball, contributing an average of 2.21 shot creating actions per game, and can offer more than simply being a ‘midfield destroyer’ – even though he produces an average of 11.84 ball recoveries every 90 minutes.
He is experienced too, having starred in Wolves’ run to the Europa League quarter-finals last season, and has 20 international caps for Portugal.
Neves, 24, has his best years ahead of him. He has contributed with five goals this season. Declan Rice has just one.
Time is right for Wolves to sell
Wolves have had a tricky season and will not be able to offer European football next season.
A year ago we would have said the chances of signing Neves were slim. But their sale of Diogo Jota to Liverpool last summer shows they will cash in at the right price.
90Min.com reported: “Parent company Fosun are looking to restructure their commitment to the club, super agent Jorge Mendes has been instructed to find buyers and arrange potential deals for some of their top players.”
Mendes helped arrange the move which saw Bruno Fernandes sign for United in January 2020.
Defensive midfield has become a priority
United’s renewal of Eric Bailly’s deal eased the pressure on signing a centre-back in the upcoming window. One may still come in, but it is a position where it is unlikely to see considerable investment.
Instead a defensive midfielder is more likely, with the team too reliant on the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay.
Neves may be available in the £50-60 million range, considerably cheaper than Declan Rice.
United could claw much of this money back with player sales this summer, still allowing funds to spend on either a winger or a striker.
A move for Rice would leave little left over, and Neves may simply be the superior player in any case.
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