There were quite a lot of reasons for Sporting CP to celebrate this season. Aside from winning their first league title in 19 years, they suffered just one defeat throughout the campaign which came in their last match against Benfica.
Their journey was propelled by old veterans like Sebastian Coates and Antonio Adan teaming up with several youngsters including top scorer Pedro Goncalves, Jovanne Cabral (both 22-years-old), Pedro Porro (21-years-old). Now it seems one of the youngest in the lot could be set to leave after having a breakthrough season.
LEFT-BACK OF FUTURE
18-year-old Nuno Mendes has been one of the stars, having made his debut for the club following the resumption of last season. He started the second of the seven remaining games, making him the youngest since a certain Cristiano Ronaldo to achieve this feat. By scoring his first senior goal in October of this season, he became the third-youngest- after Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma- to get on the scoresheet for the club.
— VSPORTS (@vsports_pt) October 4, 2020
Having been at Sporting since he was 10 years old, Mendes started his initial youth career in a forward role. However, he was soon converted into a left-back though his attacking instincts remain very sharp. That is why he has been deployed as a wingback in manager Ruben Amorim’s 3-5-2 formation this season. Known for his pace, quick feet and willingness to take on opposing defenders, Mendes is developing rapidly and can certainly become one of the world’s best in the years to come.
Though he has a lot to learn, including more focus on his defensive chores, experts agree that the teenager will no doubt imbibe the skills needed to successfully play at the highest level. Mendes has also been capped by the senior Portugal team, already racking up three appearances with the Selecao in their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. National team manager Fernando Santos, though, has played the Sporting teenager in a more conventional left-back role.
Nuno Mendes in Liga NOS this season:
🔑29 key passes
🎯7 big chances created
You have blood on your hands, Sporting CP strikers. 😉 pic.twitter.com/KVNnWrkMX4
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) May 11, 2021
Sporting’s spectacular season coinciding with him appearing in 29 matches in the league may just be enough to gain Mendes a spot in the 26-member squad for the upcoming European Championships. Portugal are looking to defend their continental crown and have matches against Germany, France, and Hungary in the group stage. With a lack of true left-footed fullbacks for Santos, Mendes can be quietly confident of his chances.
SET TO LEAVE?
Mendes has had two contract upgrades over his short senior career. Having signed his first major upgrade the day following his full debut with a release clause of $53 million. The next improvement came in December last year, with his release clause being further raised to $82.5 million. However, that has not stopped the rumour mill from spinning.
Manchester United and Manchester City are both reportedly interested in the teenager for the offseason transfer market. Both the clubs can do with a left-back after Alex Telles failed to impress at Old Trafford having been signed from Porto. The Cityzens, meanwhile, have Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko for their left side apart from the right-footed Joao Cancelo. Mendy’s fitness is iffy at best while Mendes will be an upgrade on Zinchenko as well.
Man Utd 'make contact with Sporting over £52m deal for Nuno Mendes' https://t.co/y6iGIA4gxp
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) May 17, 2021
The Sun have claimed that the Red Devils have already initiated contact with Sporting and the player’s agent. It helps that Mendes’ agent, Miguel Pinho, is also the representative of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker has been United’s man-in-chief since his signing and both clubs have had a considerable amount of transfer dealings over the past including Nani, Marcus Rojo and of course, Ronaldo himself.
United’s neighbours have also been linked with Mendes, with Guardiola set to make some splashy signings once again this summer. However, Sporting’s release clause for the player might be a stumbling block for the Etihad outfit. The owners are unsure of the player’s future potential and as it is, City have enough experienced hands to rotate around for that position. Though a cash+player deal might be the best that City can offer for the 18-year-old.
Sporting left-back Nuno Mendes earning plenty of plaudits this season but #mcfc say they won’t be going for him this summer
— Simon Bajkowski (@spbajko) May 14, 2021
Other clubs interested in the teenager include Liverpool, which looks unlikely given they have one of the world’s best in Robertson and his backup in Konstantinos Tsimikas. AC Milan have also been touted as a potential landing spot, along with Juventus and Real Madrid. It will be interesting to see where he finally lands up for the upcoming season and whether Sporting can actually keep hold of him.