Chelsea could threaten Man Utd’s bid to sign Joao Neves as £104m problem emerges

Sir Jim Ratcliffe will be keen to stamp his mark on Manchester United’s squad as soon as possible – but he could be prevented from bringing a key transfer target to Old Trafford.

Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group is expected to complete a deal to purchase a 25 per cent stake in United in the coming days.

INEOS is set to pay in the region of £1.25 billion for a minority stake in the Premier League giants, with British billionaire Ratcliffe assuming control of the football operations at Old Trafford as part of the deal.

Ratcliffe and his team could look to overhaul United’s transfer strategy once they join the club.

It comes amid reports he will ‘order’ manager Erik ten Hag to end his feud with exiled winger Jadon Sancho.

United are currently sixth in the Premier League after a disappointing start to the campaign and are expected to be active in the January transfer market.

But their mid-season business is likely to be complicated Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions.

As a result, United may look to sign younger players rather than established stars, as has been the strategy at French side Nice – who are also owned by INEOS

One young player who has caught the eye of the Premier League club is Benfica teenager Joao Neves.

United scouts were in attendance as Benfica beat rivals Sporting 2-1 on Sunday, with 19-year-old Neves scoring the first of his side’s two goals.

The midfielder has risen to prominence at the Portuguese club since Enzo Fernandez left for Chelsea in January, making 17 league appearances last season and 11 in the current campaign.

United are in the market for midfield reinforcements, withtalkSPORTclaiming earlier this week that Ratcliffe is prepared to cash in on Casemiro in January amid reported interest from Saudi Pro League clubs.

However, any hopes United may have had about securing a cheap deal for the Portuguese youngster appear to have been dashed by Chelsea.

The Blues forked out a British record transfer fee of £107m for Fernandez, easing any pressure Benfica had on their finances while cementing the club’s bargaining position for any future sales.

Neves is believed to have a £104m release clause in his Benfica contract and the Portuguese club are set to demand the full fee to let him go, according to Portuguese outletRecord(viaSport Witness).

Enzo Fernandez joined Chelsea from Benfica in January (Image: Getty)

It is claimed that Benfica do not have any intention to let Neves go this season, and plan to hold him ‘at least’ until the end of the 2024/25 campaign – unless a club pays his release clause.

Benfica boss Roger Schmidt recently praised the youngster, who has also been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal, describing him as a ‘special’ talent.

“It was a surprise last season, now I know him, but it shows that he is very special from the first day he trains with the team,” said Schmidt.

“He is very complete, he is top from a technical point of view, he is very intelligent and physical, despite being small, he is good at winning balls in duels

“The most extraordinary thing is the quality of his football, it is a great example of the work that can be done with young players at Seixal, it is a way of showing that Benfica can buy players and at the same time being able to develop young players in the academy.

“One of the special things that Benfica has is to train players as special as Joao Neves.”

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