Two days ago, we brought you reports that Arsenal, among many other clubs, were lining up a £22 million transfer fee for Porto wunderkind Ruben Neves.
Earlier today, Jan Hagen, who's apparently a well-regarded journalist on all things Portuguese soccer, has poured more fuel on that transfer rumor by suggesting the interest is very real and Arsenal are doing their best to make their presence known, based on reports from two Portuguese media outlets:
For the third time in a week Arsenal sent scouts to watch Porto last night, and A Bola believes it's "exclusively" to watch Rúben Neves.— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) December 3, 2015
O Jogo, who's the most reliable paper on Porto, also believes Arsenal's representative(Luís Boa Morte) was watching Rúben Neves.— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) December 3, 2015
ABola says Neves is a priority to Wenger, but a transfer in January will only happen if Arsenal trigger the youngster's €40m release clause.— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) December 3, 2015
A Bola doesn't rule out a transfer for Neves to Arsenal this winter, especially since Coquelin's injury may have accelerated things.— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) December 3, 2015
There's a lot to digest here, but I'll give it a shot.
First off, the €40 million release clause equals nearly £29 million, which is £7 million more than the fee the Mirror and the Sun were reporting on Tuesday. While Porto could certainly listen to offers below the clause if they really wanted to sell Neves, I'm guessing that their desire to make him "a club symbol", combined with the fact that nearly every major European club wants him, would probably make the release clause nonnegotiable. If Arsenal wants to purchase Neves, in January or this coming summer, they'll more than likely have to pay up the full amount.
Then there's the mention that Arsenal have been exclusively scouting Neves, which I don't doubt they're doing. The thing is, I'm going to go out on what I believe is a pretty sturdy limb and say that Arsenal isn't the only club gracing Porto's doors to watch Neves. What this tells us is that there's interest, which is good! However, Arsenal isn't the only one who's fallen in love with Neves. They're among many other suitors who have as much, and more, money as they do. The odds are stacked against them just on the account of numbers alone. It's OK to get excited that Arsenal's going out of their way to scout Neves. I wouldn't go printing shirts yet, though.
Lastly, as we said in other posts, it makes sense why Arsenal is looking at Neves, and it also makes sense why it's easy to assume he's not the only holding midfielder they're looking at for January. The Francis Coquelin injury made it an urgent matter; the Santi Cazorla injury a week later made the position a smoldering pile of ash. It's great to see that Aaron Ramsey will get to play back in the middle again, but he'll be paired with either the corpse of Mikel Arteta or Future Energy Baron Mathieu Flamini. Neither pairing should inspire confidence within the club's management, both now and in the long-term. The club needs to figure out what they're going to do for the rest of the season if they're serious about challenging for the league, and sorting out a transfer of this magnitude might not be something that's possible within the confines of the month of January.
I believe the club is active in trying to solve their problem in the center of the pitch. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a person who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, to contrive such a hypothesis. I believe the club has interest in a kid with the sort of history and talent as Neves. There's just so much more that needs to happen before we start to dream up future lineups and pairings with him in it.