According to reports from Sport Witness, Arsenal have spent the last week running the rule over Chelsea and Liverpool target Ruben Neves.
The central midfielder, who team-mate Cristian Tello has compared to Barcelona’s formidable anchorman Sergio Busquets, is only 18 years of age but has already registered 49 senior appearances for the Dragons and became the youngest captain in Champions League history last month during a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The teenager’s emphatic rise since his August 2014 debut has not gone unnoticed. He was awarded his first two senior caps by Portugal manager Fernando Santos during November’s international break and has been a regular fixture in the Premier League’s rumour columns over the last few months.
Chelsea were first linked with Neves in September as a cheaper alternative to the seemingly out of reach Paul Pogba and have since been tipped to launch a bid at the end of the season. Likewise, Liverpool have been tracking the 5 foot 11 centre-mid for some time, but their interest has accelerated dramatically since the appointment of Jurgen Klopp – to the extent that they reportedly made an ‘informal enquiry‘ in October.
But Arsenal have also been mentioned as potential suitors and Sport Witness suggest that their interest has increased since Francis Coquelin was ruled out until February with a knee injury last week. As the only athletic and defensively-minded midfielder in the Arsenal squad, the Frenchman leaves an almighty void for the Gunners’ upcoming fixtures against Manchester City, Southampton, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Arsene Wenger is believed to be combing the market for potential solutions – “I will do what is needed in January, knowing as well it is not an ideal transfer market,” was the soundbite last Monday – and Sport Witness claim Arsenal scouts have now watched Neves twice in the last week.
Although the Gunners may have been scouting another Porto player, the timing with Coquelin’s injury seems more than coincidental, especially considering they were present during the Dragons’ 1-0 win over bottom-place Tondela on Saturday – an away game of little significance in which scouts from Lorient and Real Betis were the only others to attend.
But under contract until 2019, signing Neves in January will likely require activating his £29million release clause – a figure that’s probably out of Wenger’s comfort zone considering the midfielder’s age.