Manchester United and Liverpool are among the sides interested in signing Sporting CP midfielder Pedro Goncalves, a player who is rising to the fore in Portugal’s Primeira Liga.
Potentially, he could be the country’s next high profile export to one of Europe’s top five leagues, following in the footsteps of Bruno Fernandes – who has seamlessly transitioned from the best player in his homeland to one of the Premier League’s – and the world’s – best attacking midfielders.
This is a look at Goncalves’ background, his style of play, statistic, expected transfer fee and prospects…
Goncalves has a recent history in English football, having been snapped up by Wolves in 2017 soon after turning 19. He had previously been at Valencia and spent the longest period of his youth career at Braga, arguably Portugal’s best club outside the usual big three – Sporting, Benfica and Porto.
The player joined an already strong community of Portuguese players at Molineux and altogether spent two years developing in England. He made his first-team debut as a substitute in an EFL Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday in 2018, although it was his only senior appearance.
Wolves moved Goncalves on to Famalicao back in Portugal in 2019, a club with whom they have an almost feeder-type relationship. After one season with Famalicao, helping the club to a best ever sixth place top flight finish, he joined Sporting last summer.
During his time at Wolves, Goncalves lived with teammate Ruben Neves. Having lived and played in England before would make it easier to settle at a new club should he return.
Goncalves has a long-term contract with Sporting until the summer of 2025, although there is thought to be a release clause in that deal that would cap any transfer at €60m (£53m).
It is not an obscene amount for a goalscoring midfielder with long-term potential and, for comparison’s sake, Manchester United agreed a deal worth up to €80m for Bruno Fernandes in January 2020 – an initial €55m, plus €25m in add-ons over time.
Sporting may be open to negotiate a structured deal or could stick rigidly to his release clause. Alternatively, it would not be a surprise if, sensing the interest in Goncalves, they try and negotiate a new contract to raise that clause, allowing them demand more in the open market.
Comparisons with Bruno Fernandes are easy because since arriving Goncalves has effectively filled the void left when Fernandes joined Manchester United last year.
They are not quite the same type of player, with Goncalves splitting himself between a central attacking midfield role and a position wide on the right. But the goal return has been similar.
So far this season, Goncalves has scored 14 times for Sporting in the Primeira Liga. Not only is he the club’s top scorer, he is leading the goal charts for the whole division by some distance, scoring on average almost once every single game. The next most prolific scorers on just eight.
Sporting are leading the standings as a result of his form and are in search of an elusive first title since 2001/02, way back when Cristiano Ronaldo was still yet to make his first-team debut.
Where Goncalves doesn’t match Fernandes is in assists. He has only two this season, making his game more focused on scoring goals than providing them, which is no bad thing but worth noting.
Goncalves has also followed a relatively similar career path to Fernandes, albeit a slightly accelerated one. Having been passed over by Portugal’s domestic giants, he left home as a teenager move abroad to a second tier club, as Wolves were when he first arrived. That mimics Fernandes, who was 17 when left Portugal aged 17 to join Novara in Italy’s Serie B.
Liverpool look increasingly likely to lose Georginio Wijnaldum as a free agent at the end of the season, leaving a gaping hole in their strongest midfield.
That Goncalves can also operate from either flank would also add depth to the forward line and relieve some of the pressure on Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Current understudies Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri lack sufficient quality, while Diogo Jota has been limited by injuries.
There is a less clear cut path at Manchester United because every starting position is accounted for, although Goncalves would add invaluable depth and provide all-important competition for places.
With Paul Pogba looking more and more comfortable in a deeper, conventional central midfield role, Goncalves would be competing with Bruno Fernandes and possibly Donny van de Beek were he to make the switch to Old Trafford, the latter of whom has struggled as it is.
On the right, United have lacked a specialised winger for years and Goncalves, as mentioned also a ‘number 10’, would be a different kind of player. The club has recently bought Amad Diallo and is still eyeing a summer move for Jadon Sancho, although having Goncalves would mean options.
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