Manchester United are preparing potential moves for two of the world's burgeoning talents, as they contemplate offers for Sporting CP winger Gelson Martins and Santos midfielder Thiago Maia.
According to Portuguese newspaper A Bola (h/t George Boulton of the Sun), United and Chelsea are ready to scout Martins—dubbed the "next Luis Figo." Manchester City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are also expected to be in attendance to watch the 21-year-old attacker when Sporting welcome Real Madrid to the Estadio Jose Alvalade on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.
Martins has worked his way through the club's youth academy and established himself in the first team after the departure of Joao Mario to Inter Milan.
United's links with Sporting run deep, having previously taken Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani from the Portuguese team. The latter was loaned back to the Lisbon side in 2014 before permanently departing Old Trafford.
According to Calciomercato, Martins has continually appeared on the Red Devils' radar in recent months, with AC Milan and Inter both watching his situation develop. The report said the player has a release clause of €60 million (£53.3 million) in his contract.
United manager Jose Mourinho is also expected to rival Paris Saint-Germain for Santos teenager Maia, who was part of Brazil's squad as they triumphed at the Olympic Games on home soil.
All interested parties might struggle to jump ahead of the Parisians in the queue after Maia admitted his leanings toward the Ligue 1 champions.
Speaking to Brazilian radio station, Bradesco Esportes FM (h/t Matt Heath-Smith of the Sun), the player said:
Many players say they want to play at Real Madrid or Barcelona, but I identify myself PSG.
I have friends there. Marquinhos told me about the structure of the club.
His smile lets you imagine how happy he is there. If I went to PSG one day I would be very happy.
But this does not mean that I will go there.
The 19-year-old has already made 57 appearances in his country’s top division, according to Heath-Smith.
Here is the player in action:
Both players will find their way to bigger stages in the near future, and as a Portuguese speaker, Mourinho will be able to tempt both youngsters in their native tongue.
The self-proclaimed Special One needs to add quality youth to the existing experience he already has in his squad, and Martins and Maia would command significant sell-on fees if they are successful at Old Trafford.
However, for every Ronaldo captured, there is a Nani, and United have not been lucky in their pursuits in Portugal and Brazil. Anderson and Kleberson both arrived to great fanfare as excellent young players, but both found the pressure too much in Manchester.
Both talents need matches to develop, and it is questionable whether Mourinho is the right manager for them. The former Chelsea boss has neglected youth in the past, and nothing suggests he won't target more experienced players for his starting XI when the transfer window opens in January.