Manchester United must act quickly in their pursuit of Santos striker Marcos Leonardo with Benfica preparing a formal approach this month.
Leonardo is one of the best young strikers in Brazilian football and he had an impressive 2023 campaign with Santos, scoring 21 goals in all competitions.
The 20-year-old was linked with a move away last summer, but he was convinced to stay as Santos were battling relegation in the Brazilian Serie A.
Santos eventually suffered their first-ever relegation in their 111-year history and there is a gentleman’s agreement that Leonardo can leave this winter.
United are known to be keeping a close eye on his progress, but they can no longer play the waiting game with Benfica preparing an official offer, as per Record (page 5).
The Portuguese giants are known for prising away emerging talents from South America. In the summer of 2022, they won the race to sign River Plate’s Enzo Fernandez ahead of United.
The Red Devils were constantly keeping an eye on the Argentine starlet, but their reluctance to spend benefitted Benfica, who went on to sell him to Chelsea for a nine-figure sum.
Aside from Fernandez, United have also missed out on Moises Caicedo in the past. They seemed in pole position to land him, but Brighton & Hove Albion eventually won the race.
These are two big lessons for United to learn from. They must avoid another repeat this winter by securing the services of Leonardo ahead of Benfica in the transfer window.
With Santos’ relegation, the young striker is valued between €15-20 million. Santos, who own 70 per cent of the economic rights of the player, are prepared to accept around €18m.
United may have Financial Fair Play difficulties but they must capitalise on the low valuation to sign the starlet. They could recoup most of the funds by offloading Anthony Martial.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com & Sofascore.com
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