Steve Bruce may rue Newcastle United’s failed January transfer swoop for Sporting CP midfielder Matheus Nunes.
According to Record, the Magpies lodged a €13m (£11.5m) bid for Nunes in the winter market but they saw the approach immediately turned down.
The Leoes were reluctant to weaken head coach Ruben Amorim’s squad during a Liga NOS title challenge, with the Jose Alvalade Stadium natives presently top of the table and four points clear of rivals FC Porto and a further five clear of SC Braga.
Sporting also believe Nunes, who they signed from Portuguese second-tier outfit GD Estoril Praia in January 2019, will only continue to increase his market value and edge closer to the €60m (£53m) release clause inserted in his new contract penned in October.
Sporting President, Frederico Varandas, additionally believes Nunes’ performances will soon justify the Lisbon outfit’s €10m (£9m) investment in Amorim, after the Leoes head coach successfully promoted the 22-year-old into the first-team fold during the second half of last season.
Nunes has now made 33 senior outings for the Leoes across all competitions, and scored his second goal for the club by heading home a stoppage-time winner over rivals Benfica on Monday night.
Record’s report is the latest to emerge from Portugal citing Newcastle’s interest in the 6ft Brazilian, after claims emerged in the January transfer window of a loan approach that carried a £10m obligation to turn the deal permanent at the end of the season.
Reports of an improved bid from Newcastle would suggest United carry significant interest in Nunes’ potential, but failing to submit a tempting enough offer to Sporting in the mid-season market may leave Bruce ruing the Toon’s inability to get a deal done.
Sporting appear to have a lot of confidence in the midfielders’ talents and seemingly firmly believe he is worth more than close to a sixth of his release clause, so will be expected to demand even more in the summer should the Magpies revive their pursuit.
Nunes is consistently improving the more he features under Amorim, having gone from a player drifting between being one of the first names on a teamsheet and a substitute for much of the campaign, to scoring his first goal in senior football against Braga last month and regaining a starting role.
He is also recording a higher volume of total passes per 90 (37.2) in the Liga NOS this term than Bruce is seeing from Almiron (36.5) in the Premier League, along with more key passes (0.7) than Sean Longstaff (0.6), Matty Longstaff (0.5) and Jeff Hendrick (0.4), per WhoScored.
Nunes further matches his creative eye with an energetic presence to dart from box-to-box with three successful dribbles per 90, more than any central midfielder to have featured for the Toon in the top-flight this term. But also with close to as many successful tackles (1.2) as Jonjo Shelvey (1.3).
Newcastle returning in the summer with an even bigger offer for Nunes will be a clear admission that the club made a blunder in January by not pursuing a deal any further, and their inactivity could likely lead to a heavy hit to the pocket as well.