Reports in Portugal suggest that Manchester United are monitoring Sporting defender Goncalo Inacio and could make a move for the youngster this summer. The 21-year-old is one of the highest-rated young defenders in the world and is widely expected to be the next academy graduate to swap Lisbon for a big-money move to a European giant. Inacio was part of Portugal’s 55-man preliminary squad for the World Cup but did not make the final cut for the tournament in Qatar, but he is in line to make his senior debut this coming week.
Although Fernando Santos’ tried and tested centre-back pairing of Ruben Dias and 40-year-old Pepe have both been selected, new boss Roberto Martinez is expected to put his faith in the uncapped Inacio for upcoming games against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. The youngster has impressed enormously this season under Ruben Amorim and, according to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, both Manchester United and Newcastle have taken notice.
Inacio is believed to feel he is ready to join a top European club and favours a move to Old Trafford over St James’ Park. The Red Devils are ‘attentive’ to the possibility of signing Inacio this summer and there are suggestions he could act as cover and competition for Lisandro Martinez in the left centre-back role. Inacio impressed against Arsenal in the Europa League.
Inacio is cultured and confident on the ball and would likely see plenty of game time, with Erik ten Hag frequently rotating his team, while United are expected to try and offload skipper Harry Maguire in the summer which would create even more opportunities. The Red Devils are also believed to have watched Inacio up close in Sporting’s Europa League, last-16 win over Arsenal, with the defender impressing in both legs – and particularly at the Emirates.
United may need to move quickly, however, with Sporting currently trying to raise a release clause in the centre-back’s contract which means he can be bought for around €45million (£40m). Sporting want to secure a contract extension with Inacio which would tie down his long-term future and increase his release clause to as much as €80m (£70m).
If United do not make a move this summer, Inacio is described as ‘uninterested’ in a move to Newcastle and will only leave Sporting for a European heavyweight playing regularly in the Champions League. Inacio is a key part of Sporting’s build-up play from the back and averages 75 passes per match in the Portuguese league – the most of any player at the club – and has three assists.