With only around 90 hours to go until the January transfer window closes, Bruno Fernandes remains a Sporting Lisbon player despite constant reports that a transfer deal with Manchester United is close to completion.
But which reports should we believe? What are the true facts and will the 25-year-old be heading to Old Trafford before midnight on Friday?
Here is a rundown of what we consider to be facts – where there is total consensus in both the English and Portuguese press about something, fiction – where something has been shown to be wrong by reputable sources and unclear – where the reports from reputable sources are mixed.
FACT: Manchester United have agreed personal terms with the player
This was first reported by Spanish outlet AS on January 16th and has been widely reported since, with no outlets claiming that the 25-year-old’s contract is yet to be finalised. The Mail claims the value of the contract is ‘worth around £130,000 per week’ but whether this is true is unclear.
FACT: Sporting are holding out for a package worth €70 million for Fernandes
All journalists have consistently reported this figure in recent weeks. Figures of up to €80 million (£67 million) were originally touted but €70 million (£59 million) seems to be the true value. It has also widely been reported that the Lisbon club want at least €60 million (£50.5 million) of this fee to be fixed, with the remaining €10 million in realistic bonuses.
FICTION: There is a secret clause in the Portuguese star’s contract which states that any bid over €50 million (£42 million) will require Sporting to pay Fernandes’ agent €5 million.
There was a similar clause in the player’s old contract but this was removed when he signed a new one in November.
FACT: Fernandes is desperate to leave the club and play in the Premier League
This was confirmed by the player himself in an interview with GQ magazine.
FACT: Negotiations remain open between the clubs and it is in everyone’s interests to get a deal done
The press all agree that, at the very least, communication channels are open between the two clubs, that United want the player and that Sporting have significant and urgent debts that can be resolved by selling him.
UNCLEAR: The single fact that remains unclear is how far apart the two sides are in negotiations.
The Portuguese press is unanimous: that the Red Devils have made an improved offer of €55 million plus between €10-€15 million (£46 million plus £8.4-£12.6 million) in bonuses. They further agree that Sporting’s President Frederico Varandas is prepared to compromise on the fixed part of the fee, which is now just €5 million under his minimum, and simply wishes to negotiate more realistic/achievable bonuses for the remaining €10-€15 million.
Many of the English papers have reported similar amounts but yesterday The Athletic’s David Ornstein – normally an extremely reliable source – poured cold water on the speculation, saying ‘United are still in talks with Sporting Lisbon … but the sides remain a long way from agreeing a deal. Reports in recent days that it is on the verge of happening are wide of the mark. The situation could develop if Sporting ultimately decide their need for money is more important than their need for the asking price to be matched…No deals are imminent for United and although discussions are ongoing, there is a realistic possibility that they finish the window without any new signings.’
The strange thing here is that an equally reputable journalist working for the same outlet – Laurie Whitwell – corroborated the Portuguese press’s story rather than his colleague’s yesterday, saying ‘United are continuing to negotiate with Sporting Lisbon over the Portugal international, even though they have previously drawn the line at a €50 million guaranteed bid. The Athletic understands that Sporting are looking to alter one add-on clause pertaining to Fernandes winning the Ballon d’Or — rather wanting the cash on more realistic terms.’
With slight tweaks in reported values here and there, virtually the entire press in both countries are claiming a compromise figure is close. It is really just the Ornstein report that has thrown this into doubt. The fact that it is many versus one does not make the one wrong, especially when that one is a trusted source. But on balance, most things point to an agreement finally being reached and that Bruno Fernandes will become a Manchester United player by 11pm on Friday.