'He is ready' - Bruno Fernandes issues transfer verdict on £103m Man Utd target

Manchester United have already received a glowing endorsement from their captain.

Bruno Fernandes insists Joao Neves is 'ready' to make the step up to an elite European side amid ongoing links with Manchester United.

Neves is thought to have been on United's radar for several months after breaking into the Benfica first-team last year. The 19-year-old was promoted from the academy after Chelsea bought Enzo Fernandez for £105million and is already looking every bit as good as his predecessor.

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A first full campaign at the Estadio da Luz has earned call-ups to the Portuguese national team for Neves and the midfielder has already impressed some of his more experienced countrymen. Fernandes is currently away on international duty and had an encouraging message for his club's transfer target.

“I don’t know if United rumours are true, but I know he is ready for that big jump," Fernandes told Sport TV Portugal. “He is an excellent player, he’s with the national team... that’s also why the big clubs are after him."

Fernandes will get a first-hand look at Neves again during the March break in which Portugal face Sweden and Slovenia, both in friendlies before this summer's European Championships. It is the third camp he will share with the Benfica star and United's captain has already been taken aback, essentially green-lighting a transfer earlier this season.

"It has to be the Man United coach who says whether he has a place or not," Fernandes admitted back in November, shortly after Neves made his international debut. "He's a great player, I don't know if he would have a place or not. It depends on the coach and his ideas.

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"But he's an excellent player and an excellent kid, very professional, he will have a bright future wherever he goes. I would love to have him by my side. Because he has quality and will have a bright future. It depends on him. What I want most is the best for him."

Neves is expected to leave Benfica this summer and has a release clause of £103m. Central midfield will be a priority area to strengthen for United this summer, with concerns over the longevity of Casemiro. The Brazilian turned 32 last month and has struggled with the pace of Premier League football this season, making a summer exit very possible if a decent offer comes in.

Kobbie Mainoo has been a revelation since making his Premier League debut at Everton in November but is still only 18-years-old and cannot be solely relied upon in defensive midfield. Sofyan Amrabat is currently on loan but a permanent option is not expected to be activated in the summer.

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