Last summer, Liverpool looked to the Portuguese league to sign a Uruguayan star as the Reds sought to refresh their front line. This summer, Liverpool will look to the Portuguese league to sign a Uruguayan star as the Reds seek to refresh their aging midfield.
Or at least that’s the story out of Portugal this week, with outlets Report and Record both claiming that Liverpool are preparing a bid to sign 22-year-old Sporting Lisbon and Uruguay midfielder Manuel Ugarte, with the player said to have a €60M release clause.
The preparation of a bid—or at least the supposed preparation of one—would seem to suggest that the Reds believe that Sporting Lisbon is open to a sale of the player and that they can complete the signing of Ugarte for a fee less than his release clause.
Unlike most of the other midfielders Liverpool have been strongly linked to in recent months, Ugarte is primarily a holding player, and as such has just one assist to show for his 45 total appearances and 3,393 minutes played so far in the 2022-23 season.
Ugarte has played two seasons with Sporting after making the switch from another Portuguese club, Famalicao in 2021, having spent one seasons there after arriving from Fenix in the Uruguayan league. His ownership rights status, though, is complicated.
In 2020 when he signed for Famalicao, they paid €3M for 80% of the player’s rights. Then in 2021, Sporting signed him by paying €6.5M to acquire 50% of his overall rights, meaning that Famalicao and Fenix still hold 40% and 10% of his rights respectively.
It’s an unusually complicated situation, even by the standards of the Portuguese league where signing players from South America with their old clubs keeping a portion of their economic rights is common practice—something that isn’t allowed in England.
Ugarte has also made eight senior appearances for Uruguay and is represented by the agency of Jorge Mendes, aka football’s super-agent with a good relationship with the club and the representative of current stars Diogo Jota, Darwin Nuñez, and Fabinho.