Joao Neves: Why Man Utd are plotting January transfer swoop for €100m Benfica wonderkid

Benfica's recent record with the development of young talent is almost unrivalled in the European game. It's a job that everyone at the club is passionate about, especially Rodrigo Magalhaes, the academy's technical coordinator.

“[I want] to have at least six or seven players regularly in the first team, win the Champions League and then one, two or three of them win a Ballon d’Or," Magalhaes said in an interview with The Athletic in February.

Roger Schmidt's side weren't too far away from European glory last season. A surprise run to the Champions League quarter-finals captured the imagination of neutrals, with Goncalo Ramos, Florentino Luis and Goncalo Guedes playing starring roles.

Article continues below

Ramos has since moved on to pastures new at Paris Saint-Germain. He found it impossible to turn down a lucrative move to a bigger club, just like Enzo Fernandez, Darwin Nunez, Ruben Dias, Joao Felix and Ederson before him.

Benfica mould future superstars, but the reality is, they can't keep hold of them in the long-term. Europe's elite are now watching the Portuguese champions on a more frequent basis than ever before, with a view to being first in line for the next wonderkid.

Right now, that would appear to be Joao Neves, who reportedly saw his release clause increased to €100 million (£109m/$88m) in the summer. According to transfer guru Fabrizio Romano, the 19-year-old has already emerged on Manchester United's radar, with the Premier League giants thought to be plotting a January transfer swoop...