Ruben Neves to snub Arsenal and Manchester United?

Anugrah Patnigere
By Anugrah Patnigere
7 Min Read

FC Barcelona have reportedly opened talks to sign Ruben Neves from Wolverhampton Wanderers as per various sources. The Portuguese midfielder was linked to Manchester United and Arsenal in the January transfer window but a transfer could not be materialized. The 24-year-old has 2 years left on his current contract at the Molineux Stadium and move in the summer is highly likely as Wolves will be looking to cash in on the midfielder.

FC Barcelona’s interest

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Joan Laporta and Mateu Alemany the President and Sports Director of FC Barcelona are already planning for the upcoming summer transfer window with Xavi set to be heavily backed. Xavi wants to strengthen his midfield with veteran Sergio Busquets set to get limited game time next season as he turns 34 this year. Ruben Neves and Franck Kessie are the two midfielders on the Blaugrana’s shortlist with the latter said to be a priority to replace Busquets. According to the reputed Fabrizio Romano, Barcelona are offering Franck Kessié around €6.5m net per season as guaranteed salary on a five year deal. Kessié’s understood to be tempted – Xavi’s pushing for Franck. “We’re not changing our stance”, AC Milan director Maldini confirmed. The reluctance shown by AC Milan might pave way for Ruben Neves to join his former Wolves teammate Adama Traore at the Camp Nou.

Neves’ midfield stats compared to the midfielders of FC Barcelona are pretty similar but he certainly is putting up numbers better than Sergio Busquets both defensively and offensively. At Wolves, he usually plays in a midfield pivot of 2 alongside either Dendoncker or Joao Moutinho and at Barca too he will have a similar position with Xavi using a 3-2-5 formation when in possession with Sergio Busquets and De Jong/Pedri shielding the defence to avoid any counter-attacks. Neves can replace Busquets in this system and his ability to create chances from deeper positions using his wide passing range will benefit Xavi’s attackers to break down stubborn low block teams. When in possession, Sergio Busquets is asked to be the metronome and control the tempo of the game for which he is renowned and had a similar role under Pep Guardiola during his time at the Camp Nou. Bruno Lage at Wolves also does the same with Neves and has given him the responsibility to dictate the game from the midfield and find runners making runs in behind.

What will this mean for Arsenal and Manchester United?

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Both the English teams were desperate to sign a midfielder during the transfer window but neither of them managed to sign one. Plenty of players were linked to both the club but Neves was one which was common for both and Manchester United were very close to signing the midfielder for 40 million euros only for them to not close the deal in time and fail to make space in the squad for Neves. With Barcelona opening talks for Ruben Neves, it will be difficult to beat the Spanish club’s pull and the opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world who look revived under new boss Xavi. Arsenal and Manchester United on the other hand haven’t looked encouraging this season though a top 4 finish for the Gunners still looking like a possibility. The Red Devils are likely to miss out on a top 4 as things stand in the PL table and no Champions League next season could affect their summer transfer plans.

Alternative Targets

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Arteta has used a 4-2-3-1 formation for the most part of this season and the system could be used for next season too. Their midfield options this season have been Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga with Martin Odegaard sporadically used as a no.6 to provide cover for injuries or suspensions. A midfielder and striker are at the top of Arteta’s wishlist and with Neves unlikely to join other midfield targets could be explored. The Gunners have been linked to Yves Bissouma, Douglas Luiz and Arthur Melo for the summer transfer window. Arthur was close to joining Arsenal on a loan deal in January but Max Allegri the Juventus manager convinced Arthur to stay and fight for his place. Yves Bissouma is linked to many English clubs for the summer transfer window with Brighton setting an asking price of 50 million pounds for the defensive midfielder. Douglas Luiz meanwhile has had an injury struck season so far at Aston Villa and a move for the Brazilian would depend on Steven Gerrard who is yet to decide whether the midfielder will have a crucial role in his project.

Manchester United are set to appoint a new manager in the summer with Mauricio Pochettino and Erik Ten Hag set to be the frontrunners. Any move for a midfielder will depend on the manager who will take charge and the sale of Nemanja Matic. The Serbian midfielder isn’t favoured by Ralf Rangnick and it is unlikely the player is favoured by the next potential manager at Old Trafford. Boubacar Kamara and Declan Rice are rumoured to be the two midfielders in the shortlist with the latter set to be a priority. The asking price of West Ham for Declan Rice is around 100-120 million pounds which is considered to be very high by the interested clubs which include his boyhood club Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. Kamara on the other hand will be available for 1/4th the price West Ham are demanding and is a similar player to Rice. The French international can play as a center back as well as a center defensive midfielder and is rated very highly in France.

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