Portuguese Prospect Incoming?

As the January transfer window opened for business at midnight on Sunday, United will be scouting and surveying for a number 9 in place of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left in mid-November due to his recent interview with Piers Morgan, with the reason being stated as “mutual consent”. Anthony Martial is currently the only traditional striker at the club, with Marcus Rashford also being able to play there as he has done in past appearances. Although he can play in this position, with the Englishman in fine form fans are hoping he remains in the position where he is starring at this moment in time. Rashford has scored in 5 consecutive home appearances and seems to be back to his best. While Martial does seem to be performing well after his goal vs Nottingham Forest earlier last week, injuries have constantly been the main concern for Martial after arriving from French side Monaco for an initial 41m euros in the summer of 2015.

With a lack of options in the forward position, Joao Felix will be a main priority in January for Erik Ten Hag to reinforce in the aim to finish inside the top four, securing a champions league spot for next season. Ten Hag has taken large strides to improve the side, with the Red Devils losing just one match in their last 15 games after the humiliation in the derby vs Manchester City, which ended in a 6-3 loss at the Etihad.

. Joao Felix was signed to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid for 127m euros in the summer of 2019 from Portuguese club Benfica. While the Portuguese came in with high expectations, the forward did not flourish under the notoriously defensive minded style of play implemented by Simeone, who has been at the helm the Spanish side for over a decade now. While at the club, Simone lead them win two league titles and guided them to two champions league finals. Although he has seen major success in the past, they find themselves 4th in the table, behind Real Sociedad and 11 points from 1st.

With Felix unhappy, Atletico seem to be aiming to loan the forward in an attempt to rise the price closer to what the club paid three summers ago, as the Portuguese looks get a permanent move in the summer.

In a recent interview with Diego Simeone, he said “Joao Felix, while he’s here, I’ll try to get the best out of him for the club” suggesting that Felix’s head is turned and wants a move out of the pragmatic style of play that has seen his development take a sharp curve downwards. While others may come into the race later on in the window, Manchester United and Arsenal seem to be leading the way in the race to sign the Portuguese prospect.  According to Fabrizio Romano, the two English clubs have had direct contact with the player’s agent Jorge Mendes, while Chelsea, who were also rumoured to be interested, are pre-occupied on signing another prospect who has risen to fame at Benfica, Enzo Fernandez.

According to David Ornstein, a football correspondent for the Athletic, a 6 month loan for Joao Felix would cost a total of 21m euros. The fee is broken down into 2 separate sections, a 15m fee to Atletico Madrid for the loan and 6m euros in wages for Joao Felix. It is also reported that neither club has bitten at the offer tabled by the Spanish side, with the fee expected to come down significantly as the window progresses. This could be an issue for United, as the ownership of the club is firmly up in the air. The Glazer family are looking to sell the club in the first quarter of 2023 and so funds for the winter window is limited to around £25m in total, this restricts Ten Hag to loans as his number one choice was Cody Gakpo, who was a mere £37m which Liverpool snapped up in a matter of hours.

In the season that earned the Portuguese his big move to Madrid, the forward netted 20 times and assisted on 11 different occasions in his 43 appearances, including 3 goals and 1 assist in 6 Europa league appearances. While he shined in this Benfica side, since joining LaLiga, it has only been glimpses of his brilliance that he showed on an almost weekly basis in Portugal. In the 130 appearances Felix has made in all competitions, he has only scored 34 goals and assisted 18. Which is a goal+assist ratio per game of 0.4, compared to 0.72 per game in the season prior to his move to Atletico Madrid.

While Felix has underperformed, and has looked a shadow of his former self, in Ten Hag’s style of relentless pressing, front foot football and aggressive play Joao Felix could shine. United in the forward position have lacked clinical finishing in combination with link-up play with the two wide forwards. With Felix playing the majority of his games during his career as a secondary striker, it could also allow Rashford and Antony to make overlapping runs into the space in front of Felix, utilizing their deadly pace on counter attacks and build up moves. This was effective at Benfica, as he contributed to 25 goals in his 28 appearances as a secondary striker at Benfica under Rui Vitoria, where they won the Liga Portugal by two points over Porto.

In conclusion, Joao Felix could be utilized effectively in Erik Ten Hag’s aggressive and offensive style of play and contribute more to the play compared to Diego Simeone’s pragmatic defensive style commonly associated with the Argentine coach. With the departure of arguably the best Portuguese player in history, United must reinforce the position in January if they want to challenge for a champions league spot, and Felix could fill that void in the team, and take the number 7 shirt to hopefully help to set the red devils back on their way to glory, and maybe their first trophy since 2017.

Would you be happy with Joao Felix as our main signing of the summer? Let us know!

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