Another day, another dollar, and another string of tantalising transfer rumours to sink our collective teeth into as the January window starts to loom… well, not large exactly, but perhaps medium-sized. We now have just six weeks until Premier League transfers start popping off while we’re sat on the couch pretending to consider a New Year gym membership, after all.
Anyway, let’s start today with a tasty tidbit from Caught Offside, who reckon that Manchester United could take advantage of Juventus’ interest in a move for the outcast Jadon Sancho by working in a swap deal for England Under-21 international Samuel Iling-Junior, who has been impressing in Turin since moving there from Chelsea in 2020.
The article does stress that there is “nothing yet advanced” between the two clubs and it’s worth noting that Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with a bid for the 20-year-old left-winger as well – while Juve’s interest in Sancho seems to be strictly on a loan basis, which United may not be too keen on. Suffice to say that this one has a lot of run time in it before anything gets done, anyway.
The 3AM Verdict: We’ve covered Iling-Junior in The Wonderkid Files before, and he’s a pretty tasty talent – a proper old-fashioned throwback winger who hugs the touchline and loves a cross. That doesn’t seem like a natural fit for Erik ten Hag’s tactical set-up, but god knows if he’ll even be there by January, and he wouldn’t be the first player they’ve signed who doesn’t fit the system. Hi, Mason Mount. So why not? He’s got some development left to do but he’d be a decent depth option at the very least.
Arsenal & Liverpool’s pricy Portuguese target
There’s good news and bad news for fans of Arsenal and Liverpool – the good news is that both clubs are very much interested in a bid for Benfica’s brilliant young midfielder João Neves, a 19-year-old who recently broke into the top five of our weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings and who has been setting tongues wagging around Europe all season. That means that supporters of both sides can at least be reassured that their scouting departments have functioning eyes and know what an incredibly talented player looks like.
The bad news is that Benfica have absolutely no interest in selling him and in plan on keeping him until “at least” the end of the 2024/25 season – at least according to Sport Witness, who have picked up on some reports in Portugal on the matter. Apparently Benfica have pointed potential suitors towards his €120m (£104.5m) release clause. Which is an awful lot of money.
The 3AM Verdict: We would be entirely unsurprised if Neves ends up being a £100m+ player one day, but it does seem a bit steep for a teenager who has all the talent in the world but also a lot of growing to do. The question is whether Benfica are being serious or are simply indulging in a little bit of pre-negotiation posturing. Either way, he wouldn’t come cheap – but he is seriously, seriously gifted.
Gunners in on Saudi swoop
Much of the speculation surrounding former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Rúben Neves’ future has been focussed on the reports that Newcastle United might look to leverage their links with the Saudi state to engineer a move for the Portugal international – but now there’s a twist in the tale, with Arsenal apparently keen.
This comes from 90min, who reckon that Neves is already pretty fed up with life at Al-Ittihad and is keen to head back to Europe, and the Gunners have him on a shortlist of potential midfield reinforcements that is, if we’re honest, not all that short – apparently it also includes Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi and Fluminense’s André, among others.
The 3AM Verdict: Mikel Arteta certainly seems pretty serious about adding another body to his midfield, and the list of players the Gunners have been linked with certainly suggests a desire for someone who can offer a bit of solidity alongside Declan Rice – not that Neves can’t offer a lot more than just solidity. The big question is what the finances look like. We know the Saudi Pro League can pay a pretty penny, but we still don’t know what they’re like as a selling force… but we might find out quite soon.