That’s according to a report by Portuguese publication O Jogo (via Sport Witness), who claim that, after reportedly seeing a €33m (£29.5m) offer turned down by Sporting Lisbon in the summer transfer window, Eddie Howe has retained his interest in the 21-year-old centre-back – and could launch a fresh move for the Portugal U21 international next summer.
However, the report goes on to suggest that the Magpies are not alone in their pursuit of the defender, with Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Paris Saint-Germain keeping an eye on the situation of Inacio – who Sporting are now ‘prepared to lose’ at the end of the current campaign, with the club hoping to receive the player’s €45m (£40m) release clause.
Considering just how impressive Inacio has been for Sporting in recent seasons, coupled with the exponential scope the 21-year-old has for future development, it is easy to see why Howe would once again be interested in a deal to bring the centre-back to St. James’ Park at the end of the current campaign.
Indeed, over his 14 Liga Portugal fixtures so far this season, the £20.5m-rated talent has been a rock at the heart of Ruben Amorim’s backline, helping his side keep three clean sheets, in addition to making an average of 1.4 interceptions, 1.1 tackles, 2.1 clearances and winning 4.1 duels – at a success rate of 58% – per game.
The £17k-per-week defender has also impressed going forwards, providing one assist and creating two big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 0.6 shots, making 0.5 key passes, playing 4.2 long balls and completing 74.1 passes – at a success rate of 90% – per match.
These returns have seen the Sporting starlet who journalist Zach Lowy once dubbed “underrated” average an extremely impressive Sofascore match rating of 6.92, currently ranking him as the Leoes’ 11th-best performer in the top flight of Portuguese football.
Furthermore, with Inacio quite clearly being a defender who is extremely solid at the back, a threat in the final third and incredibly comfortable with the ball at his feet, it is not difficult to see why Portuguese football expert Daniel Oliviera compared the 21-year-old to Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias, with Oliviera stating in an interview with Playmaker last year:
“Dias was always a natural leader and Inacio’s communication may be one area in which he can improve. Physically speaking, I believe the young Sporting defender would be able to handle the Premier League, as he is very strong in the tackle and in the air.
“He’s also smart in his defending, as just two bookings all season will tell you. In terms of his quality on the ball, I would probably rate Inacio higher than Dias – he’s very good on the deck and has a 91% pass completion rate in the Primeira Liga this term.
“Like I say, it’s hard to make comparisons. I’m 100% sure about one thing: the 20-year-old Inacio is a better player than Ruben Dias was at the same age.”
As such, should Howe go on to get a deal over the line for Inacio next summer, not only would the 45-year-old manager have landed an extremely talented young defender, but he could also have unearthed Newcastle’s very own version of the £98m-rated City star – something that is sure to be an extremely tantalising prospect for everyone involved with the Magpies.