Liverpool's busy January transfer window continues as Portuguese midfield wonderkid Rúben Neves is linked with a move to Anfield. The FC Porto youngster turns 18 in March and offers Liverpool fans FIFA 15 and Football Manager 15 bragging rights after missing out on Martin Ødegaard. It's the type of signing that makes you smile once EA Sports or Sports Interactive release their latest updates and patches, because that shiny youngster with lots of potential becomes part of your favourite team's squad. The problem is if the player was easy to purchase like Ødegaard, which means that it's better for him not to move anywhere. Neves, a potentially expensive purchase early on in any budding virtual manager's campaign, would be a desirous real-life January addition.
Liverpool need more than Brad Jones as depth or competition in goal, there's nobody besides Lucas Leiva who can play in the "Makelele" or "Pirlo" roles at the base of midfield, and can anyone name a reliable striker at the club who doesn't celebrate his goals with a dance and a quick bite at Subway? However, we must adopt the stiffest of upper lips and carry on in the face of these increasingly familiar January transfer trials. Who is Rúben Neves? He's your friendly neighbourhood defensive midfielder who Cristian Tello (remember him?) described as "similar to Sergio Busquets" because the kid "is fantastic with the ball at his feet, he knows how to position himself and he's aggressive." Tasty. That sounds like Brendan Rodgers' type of player: a wonderful young talent and an outstanding technician.
As ever with Liverpool and transfers in January (2013 never happened), there are many obstacles to a deal being completed. Most importantly, Liverpool are unlikely to sign anyone in before the window closes on Monday. The return of Jordon Ibe from his successful loan spell at Derby County, and the restored fitness of Daniel "it's like having a new player because he has hardly played for us this season anyway" Sturridge will probably be the additions to "the group" Brendan Rodgers can count on this month. Also, FC Porto usually sell players at the right time for big money, and Neves has not yet reached twenty appearances in all competitions for the Portuguese giants in his debut season. Other clubs of considerable renown and influence are believed to be monitoring the youngster's progress. There is also a release clause believed to be in the region of £29 million to protect his current club's investment in the player until 2017. A deal can be done, most likely in the summer, but it will be a difficult and expensive one.
Rúben Neves has broken a number of records in his short career in the game, possibly reflecting the talent and potential the Portuguese youth international possesses. Young Neves the youngest Portuguese player to have played in the Champions League, breaking the record set by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo when he appeared for Sporting in the same competition over a decade ago. He's also the youngest player to have scored in a league match for FC Porto at 17 years and 155 days, breaking the record of club legend Fernando Gomes in a match where he was also the club's youngest ever starter in league action. Interestingly, Cristiano Ronaldo spent just a season at Sporting before moving to Manchester United. Perhaps that could be a similar path for Neves if he were to arrive at Anfield in the summer. It probably would be wise for him to rotate and learn from Lucas with a view to taking over the position in a year or two.
Of course, making plans in the transfer window is the worst idea any Liverpool fan could make after numerous lessons from the past. Brendan Rodgers' squad already boasts a number of talented fledglings on the books, but there could be room for one more in the heart of midfield. Take a look at a fine goalscoring debut against Marítimo to decide whether the Daily Express and Daily Mirror have linked Liverpool with a player who could become a midfield star.