Defensive midfield is arguably Manchester United’s top priority for the upcoming transfer window.
But with the reported target set to cost Declan Rice more than £ 90m, United will have to look elsewhere.
It is currently unclear in which direction United will go. Yves Bissouma is an option, as is Ruben Neves. The club could of course consider some options from outside the Premier League.
One name United should consider is Sporting midfielder Joao Palhinha.
Joao Palhinha for Sporting against Maritimo (Photo by Gualter Fatia / Getty Images)
Why would United want him?
Joao Palhinha ends the best season of his career after helping Sporting win the Primeira Liga title.
Palhinha would meet an immediate need at United as a defensive midfielder, replacing Nemanja Matic.
He is 25 years old, the right balance between youth and experience, a year younger than Bruno Fernandes.
Last season FBRef.com named Palhinha the most tackle winner (68) in the Portuguese league, while WhoScored.com ranked him the seventh best player in the league based on his performance last season.
Palhinha has been chosen three times by Portugal and has been named to the squad for Euro 2020 where his reputation could be bolstered.
The biggest pluses …
His ability to fight speaks in favor of a move from Palhinha. His 3.3 tackles per game last season is significantly higher than Declan Rice’s 1.8 per game.
The biggest step for Palhinha is price. A recent report by Record linked Wolves to a move, speculating that it could cost £ 34.5 million. That’s about a third of what it would take to land rice.
A move would be akin to Leeds’ bargain move for Raphinha, which was one of the Premier League purchases of the season last season. United can do good, sensible business with the recruiting team pulling out of the hunt for the most popular or sought-after names.
Palhinha has also played alongside Bruno Fernandes once, with the two team-mates at Sporting, although their transition period was short and the pitch was only shared five times. This was because Palhinha was on loan at Braga for two seasons.
The pair are still in touch with Fernandes sending Palihina a message after scoring his first goal of the season in February, TVI24 reported.
Fernandes’ success at United, coupled with Ruben Dias at City, shows the strength of the Portuguese league purchase.
What was said about him?
A large offer from United might be tempting, but Sporting manager Ruben Amorim isn’t looking to lose Palhinha this summer.
According to O Jogo, Amorim reportedly told the Sporting president that Palhinha’s whereabouts are fundamental to the club’s success in next season’s Champions League.
Amorim told MaisFutebol earlier this season about the player’s improvement: “The credit goes to Palhinha who grew up this season. I often tell Palhinha that he is very good without a ball and with a ball. More than just technically and tactically, I reminded Palhinha that he is a special player. “
MaisFutebol reported that Palhinha was voted Portugal’s best midfielder in April.
Joao Palhinha in action for Portugal against Luxembourg (Photo by DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
The biggest minus point …
One of the positive things about coming out of the Portuguese league is also a bit negative. They don’t know how all players will adapt to the Premier League and not all of them will have the instant influence and smooth transition from Fernandes.
Compared to Rice, Neves and Bissouma, Palhinha would be more of an unknown size, although United shouldn’t scare off, just keep in mind.
Palhinha also lacks Champions League experience, although he would win some if he stayed at Sporting this season.
There are also questions about whether he will be able to hold his form next season, having only established himself in the Sporting first team after returning from an extended loan with Braga last season.
If United took the risk it could be an inspired move, but it could also fail and make the club want a player with experience in English football.
Do you have something to say about this article?