“Bruno’s goals and assists stats speak for themselves.”
That was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s assessment of Bruno Fernandes’ statistics at Sporting Lisbon prior to his Manchester United transfer. After months of transfer speculation, the Portuguese arrived at Old Trafford with a reputation as one of Portugal’s most efficient playmakers. 64 goals in 137 matches for Cristiano Ronaldo’s former side saw United pay £47million upfront for the midfielder.
Twelve months after his arrival, that fee now looks a bargain.
Many questioned whether Fernandes would be able to replicate his performances in a division as tough as the Premier League. The step-up in quality from Liga NOS is staggering but United’s new maestro has ridiculed everyone that doubted him. In his 46 appearances for United, he has scored 26 goals and registered 17 assists for his teammates. In Solskjaer’s words, those numbers speak for themselves.
Fernandes has been named Premier League Player of the Month three times, Manchester United Player of the Month six times, ended last season’s Europa League campaign as the competition’s top goal scorer and broke Frank Lampard’s record for the most goals and assists from a Premier League midfielder in a calendar year.
Buying from foreign leagues is always a risk. More recently, clubs buying from the Bundesliga have seen their new recruits struggle to adapt to life in England. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have struggled immensely following their summer moves to Chelsea while Naby Keita has failed to live up to his £55m price tag at Liverpool. Joelinton of Newcastle has also been underwhelming since his big-money move from Germany. Of course, there have been some successes, notably Son Heung-min, Kevin De Bruyne and Roberto Firmino.
It’s a league that United haven’t bought from often, unlike the Portuguese top division. Alex Telles followed by Fernandes are the most recent recruits from Portugal. United purchased Victor Lindelof, Nani, Anderson, Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo, Ronaldo and Bebe from Portuguese sides. With the exception of Bebe, most are enjoying or enjoyed fruitful spells at Old Trafford. In the summer window, all signs point to Paul Pogba leaving the club and United could again look to Portugal to find his replacement.
Fernandes’ departure left a sizable void that needed to be filled at Sporting. The man that has stepped into his boots – Pedro Goncalves – should be on United’s radar. A graduate of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ youth academy after spells with Braga and Valencia, Goncalves returned to Portugal with newly-promoted Famalicao in July 2019 but was snapped up by Lisbon just 12 months later to replace Fernandes.
Like Fernandes, Goncalves is putting up staggering numbers at his new club. The 22-year-old sits top of the league’s scoring charts with 11…
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