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Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United pulled out of chance to sign Bruno Fernandes

1 month ago
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Rafa Benitez has revealed how Newcastle United came close to signing Bruno Fernandes when he was Manager at St James Park.

The revelation has come in an interview with The Times, with the former Newcastle boss answering questions ahead of the Liverpool v Manchester United match on Sunday.

If Liverpool win then they go back top of the table, any other result and Man Utd stay top.

Speaking about Bruno Fernandez, Rafa Benitez makes clear he is the vital player now for Man Utd and has allowed them to totally revamp and change the way they play:

“He has been crucial for [Manchester] United. He changed everything with the way he is playing — assists and goals. He has “personality”. He tries to look for the right passes. In recent games, I saw him going to press with determination and intensity.”

Bruno Fernandes is an excellent all round midfielder and on top of that he scores goals, lots of them, many from the penalty spot.

In 31 Premier League appearances, Bruno Fernandes has scored 19 goals, in all competitions it is 27 goals in 48 appearances. In October, Karl Darlow became the first Premier League keeper to save a Bruno Fernandes penalty but the Portuguese international went on to score the classy goal that made it 2-1 to the visitors, before they eventually ran out 4-1 winners at St James Park.

Rafa Benitez talking to The Times – Saturday 16 January 2021:

“As a team you can have potential and quality, but you can still be missing something. You need players who are competitive and whose mentality is to be winners. It is not just about getting them into the team, but being in the squad and the dressing room and pushing everyone.

“When I went to Napoli, [Edinson] Cavani was sold to Paris Saint-Germain and everyone was telling me about his mentality and how competitive he was. He was a winner. I am sure he will have some influence in the dressing room.

“Bruno Fernandes was a player we were following at Newcastle United. He was at Sporting Lisbon and he had an issue with his club. There was a chance he could leave on a free. We were progressing but the problem was that the matter would go to court and that would complicate it. The club didn’t want that.

“He has been crucial for [Manchester] United. He changed everything with the way he is playing — assists and goals. He has “personality”. He tries to look for the right passes. In recent games, I saw him going to press with determination and intensity.”

Rafa Benitez is referring to the summer of 2018 when Newcastle United pulled out of trying to sign Bruno Fernandes.

Fernandes had signed for Sporting Lisbon from Sampdoria in July 2017 for £6m and was an instant success, named player of the season in his first year at the club.

However, things hadn’t gone great for the club overall, defeat at Maritimo on the final day of the league season saw them miss out on Champions League qualification, as Benfica took second place.

That was bad enough for the club and the players but than later a group of 50 ‘ultras’ forced their way into the club’s training centre and attacked players and members of the coaching staff.

Top scorer Bas Dost was left with a head wound, while assistant coaches Mario Monteiro and Raul Jose were also injured.

Sporting Lisbon condemned what had happened but players took action of their own, nine of them rescinded their contracts, including Bruno Fernandes.

This created the situation that Rafa Benitez refers to, where Bruno Fernandes could potentially be signed for nothing by Newcastle United BUT court action would almost certainly follow, with Sporting Lisbon looking to get as much money as possible for their player of the season.

Mike Ashley normally loves a bit of court action and agitating against the establishment, as well of course absolutely loving a bargain. Not on this occasion though.

Bruno Fernandes ended up making peace with the club instead of leaving in summer 2018, signing a new contract with a wage hike.

A year and a half later on 29 January 2020, Fernandes signing for Man Utd instead, with a reported £47m paid up front, plus £21m extra to be paid later in add-ons, plus 10% of any future profit if Man Utd sell him.

Newcastle United fans may remember this Sporting Lisbon player dispute in summer 2018 because of a different player. For around about the 20th transfer window in a row, United were said to be considering signing striker Bas Dost, as he was also one of the players who tore up his Sporting contract. He actually was physically injured when the ultras stormed the training ground.

However, like Bruno Fernandes, and indeed most of the rest of the rebels, Bas Dost made his peace as well, also signing a new contract on enhanced terms.

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