Nemanja Matic sends transfer message to Joao Neves amid Manchester United links

Joao Neves in action for Benfica.
Manchester United have been heavily linked with the prospect of signing Joao Neves from Benfica. -Credit:Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images.

Former Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has advised Joao Neves to stay at Benfica for now amid reports linking him with a move to Old Trafford.

United, who are gearing up to face Coventry City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley on Sunday, are set to be in the mix for a new defensive-midfielder this forthcoming summer. Casemiro, now 31, has regressed at an alarming rate this season and is need of replacing.

According to a report coming out of Portugal earlier this week, United have installed Neves, 19, as their top target for the summer. A report also claimed United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe had 'met' Neves' agent – who is renowned 'super agent' Jorge Mendes – to 'discuss' the possibility of a transfer for the youngster.

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Neves has excelled for Benfica this season, racking up 50 appearances in all competitions and chipping in with three goals. Though he is primarily a defensive midfielder, he can also operate as a box-to-box midfield player.

Widely considered as one of the most exciting midfielders in Europe, links to clubs of United's stature comes as little surprise. However, former United star Matic – who spent five years at Old Trafford between 2017 and 2022 – believes it would be in the youngster's best interest to continue his development at Benfica for the time being.

"I think it's too early for him to take that step of leaving," Matic told Portuguese newspaper O Jogo. "If I were him, I would stay at Benfica for a few more years to play in the Champions League and to mature more.

"I'm sure his time will come and, therefore, he doesn't need to rush. Joao is already at a big club at this point.

"I'm sure his future at Benfica will be very good. I think it's too early to leave, but of course, in the end, it's always his decision."

Neves, who started all six of Benfica's matches in the Champions League earlier this season, has been heavily linked with a move to United in recent weeks. Last month, United skipper Bruno Fernandes, who spent time with the youngster on international duty, said he was 'ready' to make the jump to a big club.

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