Not a day goes by without Bruno Fernandes’ name being linked with Manchester United, and after a remarkable season with Sporting CP, it is no surprise to see why.
The Portuguese playmaker has often carried the side on his back, and after the horrifying pre-season that threatened to overwhelm the club last summer, they are very much back on track.
With United suffering an exit in the Champions League quarter finals to Barcelona on Tuesday, eyes are beginning to turn towards what the Red Devils’ plans are for the upcoming campaign.
As such, here’s a look at the six things you should know about Sporting’s star man, and one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s main summer transfer targets.
Terminated His Contract With Sporting After Violence Last Summer But Rejoined Immediately
In one of the most terrifying scenes in recent footballing history, Sporting players were subjected to a violent altercation with their own supporters last summer. Around 50 ‘fans’ turned up at the club’s training ground and attacked Fernandes, several of his teammates and coaches, about the side’s failure to qualify for the Champions League and only finishing third in the league.
The incident understandably left many of the squad shaken, and even more deciding that their futures at the club were untenable. The likes of Rui Patricio (Wolves), William Carvalho (Real Betis) and Gelson Martins (Atletico Madrid) among others all left, and whilst Fernandes initially terminated his contract, club president Bruno de Carvalho’s decision to walk away as a result of the saga convinced the midfielder to rejoin.
Has a ‘Double-Double’ in the League
In basketball, a player with more than ten points and ten assists/rebounds/steals in a game is considered to have recorded a ‘double-double’. This season with Sporting, Bruno Fernandes has achieved the footballing equivalent.
With 16 goals and 11 assists to his name in just 28 Primeira Liga appearances, the 24-year-old has been well and truly at the heart of the Portuguese side’s attacking play. As capable of playing as a number ten as he is coming in off the flanks, Fernandes’ licence to create for Sporting means he is often seen as the ‘go-to’ man for the club.
Whether he would enjoy that same level of freedom at United remains to be seen, but there’s no doubting he relishes the pressure that comes with it.
Named Portuguese League’s Player of the Year in 2018
Only in his first season at the club following his arrival from Serie A side Sampdoria the previous summer, Fernandes enjoyed an excellent debut campaign. He finished the season with 16 goals across all competitions, meaning he was only second on the Sporting goal-scoring charts behind FIFA legend Bas Dost.
Having been a part of the side that finished third in the league behind rivals Porto and Benfica, Fernandes’ achievement of scooping up the biggest individual prize on offer in Portugal that year simply showcased the influence and remarkable personal season he had. To put this into even more context, the 24-year-old beat off competition from Benfica marksman Jonas who had scored an unbelievable 34 goals in the league.
Broke a 30+ Year Club Record for Most Goals Scored by a Midfielder
Having added a goalscoring touch to his game since joining Sporting, Fernandes has had his most productive season in front of goal in his career this year.
In scoring his 23rd competitive goal of the season during a 3-1 win at the Jose Alvalade Stadium against Portimonense S.C. on 3 March courtesy of a late penalty, Fernandes wrote his name into the Sporting history books.
The strike meant he surpassed Antonio Oliveira’s club record for most goals scored by a midfielder in a single season; an achievement that was set all the way back in the 1981/1982 season.
Has a €100m Release Clause But Could Be Signed for Much Less
When you think about release clauses in the modern day, it’s usually understood that a club either pays the full figure to sign the player or nothing really comes of it. In the case of Fernandes, despite having a €100m release clause included in the new contract he signed with Sporting last year, the amount needed to sign him at the end of the season is expected to be much less.
Recent reports have suggested that United have stepped up their negotiations with the Portuguese side, and a bid of almost half the €100m may well be enough to secure Fernandes’ signature. While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are being considered the early frontrunners for the midfielder’s signature, the likes of Juventus, Liverpool and Chelsea are all rumoured to be monitoring the situation, so a deal may not be as straightforward as it seems for the Red Devils.
He’s Admitted He Is Finally Ready to Make the Step Up to Premier League Football
One of the biggest culture shocks for footballers coming from abroad and plying their trade in the Premier League is often the intensity of the game. The hustle and bustle style, the sheer volume of games, and the lack of refereeing protection has often meant players can struggle to adapt and adjust to this new style of playing.
Having been linked with a move away from Sporting last summer, Fernandes has now admitted that he would have struggled to have coped with the ‘number of games’ in English football, but with an extra season with the Portuguese side under his belt, is now ready to make the step up.
He said: “Last year, after the [contract] termination, I received approaches, mainly from England and also from Spain, but I did not feel prepared to go. Not because of difficulty, but for the high number of games in England.
“My debut season at Sporting was the first time I played so many games, I thought I needed one more with that regularity. Now I feel prepared for this requirement, if I ever have to play in England or a team in Spain.”