Is Man Utd’s latest Sporting link a Ronaldo, Nani or Mane?
Ever since striking gold with Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2003, Manchester United seem to have kept an eye out for the latest young wingers coming through at Sporting Lisbon.
Four years after Ronaldo started his stint at Old Trafford, Nani was added for almost twice the transfer fee his countryman had fetched, but goal records of 113 in 259 Red Devils appearances from the former, compared to just 29 in 154 from the latter, proved how tough it is to repeat such a trick.
When Carlos Mane burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old three years ago, then-United boss David Moyes reportedly sent scouts to watch the young Portuguese, who looked destined for great things after bagging nine goals during his second Sporting campaign in 2014/15.
Alas, after falling out of favour last term under Jorge Jesus, the 22-year-old was linked with the likes of Bournemouth and Celtic in January, and is now on loan at relegated Bundesliga side Stuttgart.
United are clearly no longer interested in Mane, but even Jose Mourinho isn’t above trying to unearth the next Ronaldo.
Gelson Martins caught the attention of the world’s football press with a startling display in Sporting’s 2-1 Champions League loss away to Real Madrid, where he left a few Los Merengues stalwarts chasing shadows.
Estadio Jose Alvalade regulars won’t have been shocked by their boy’s exploits after Martins kicked off the Primeira Liga campaign with two goals and an assist in the first four games – all prior to the Bernabeu trip – with the 21-year-old seeing a couple more of his key passes converted since.
The Cape Verde-born Portugal youth international showed glimpses of promise last season with seven goals in 42 all-competition appearances, most of them from the bench as Jesus treaded carefully with a talent the veteran coach has described as unique.
Understandably, Real are also thought to be interested, with a rumoured €45m release clause anchoring Martins to Sporting, so United will have to really dig deep if talk of an Old Trafford move for the right-winger comes to fruition.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.