Manchester United fans have learned over the years to be wary of transfer reports coming from Portugal.
While Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof eventually did sign and have become regulars, the name Nico Gaitan is still a running joke among fans who saw him linked repeatedly to the club, with no deal transpiring.
Ezequiel Garay was another.
The latest object of United’s reported affections is a very intriguing player, one who could be exactly who the Red Devils need: Darwin Nunez.
Portuguese outlet A Bola claim United had scouts watching Nunez on Monday night as Benfica beat Tondela 3-1. The striker was on the scoresheet.Nunez plays for Benfica and is enjoying a prolific season.
This campaign he has scored 21 goals in 26 games, including 16 in 17 in the Portuguese top flight.
The 22-year-old is a Uruguay international where he is viewed as Edinson Cavani’s successor, a role he could get to play at club level too if United sign him. He currently has two international goals.
This is already Nunez’s best season. Last year he struck 14 goals in all competitions, including a Europa League goal against Rangers.
Nunez’s agent Edgardgo Lasalvia said of the Cavani comparisons, via The Metro: “They have a lot of things in common.
We’re convinced that Darwin is destined for great things.” The Benfica forward possesses similarly clever movement to Cavani, as well as a rocket of a right-foot.
This season he has scored goals with both feet and his head.Benfica paid a record fee to sign Nunez from Spanish side Almeria in 2020 after he struck 16 goals in 32 games, with Goal.com reporting he cost around £22 million. This is a fee they want a substantial profit on.
Manager Jorge Jesus said: “He was the most expensive player in Benfica history and, I don’t know with the pandemic, but he could also be the most expensive player to leave Benfica. This kid will be the best in the world and, sadly for me, I will lose him soon.”
This pronouncement he expects Nunez to be the most expensive player in Benfica history is quite the claim, considering they sold Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid for more than £100 million.
The fee paid will only embolden them.
The Evening Standard reported West Ham failed with a £60 million bid on deadline day, £50m plus £10m in add-ons.
Darwin Nunez has a contract until 2025, and the Daily Star report he has a staggering £125m release clause in his contract.
United may regret not pushing to take a gamble on Nunez in 2020, rather than signing Cavani himself. Now the exciting forward could be too expensive.
It will likely take at least £70 million to convince Benfica to sell, and that may not be enough if he ends the season strongly.
With United requiring investment in midfield and possibly at right-back and centre-back too, spending £70m plus on a striker may not be the smartest move.