MANCHESTER UNITED are reportedly ready to pay the £105million release clause for Joao Felix this summer.
The Benfica star, 19, is the subject of interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs but United are desperate to get to the front of the queue.
And according to Portuguese outlet Record, the Old Trafford club are prepared to smash the British transfer record to sign Felix.
That currently stands at the £89m United paid to bring Paul Pogba back to the club from Juventus in 2016.
But Felix is rated so highly that they are now willing to pay the huge release clause.
The Portugal Under-21 international would add creativity and – crucially – goals to a side that has struggled this season, particularly in the final weeks of the campaign.
Manchester United lost eight of their final 12 games this season and midfielder Pogba was the top scorer with 16 goals, one more than £75m man Romelu Lukaku and three more than Marcus Rashford.
If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did manage to bring in Felix, it would surely throw the futures of both Rashford and Lukaku into doubt.
The prodigy is currently under contract at Benfica until 2023 and with Jorge Mendes his agent, it is unsurprising that he is set for a big-money move.
In his debut season in the first team, Felix bagged an impressive 20 goals and 11 assists – he also became the Europa League’s youngest hat-trick hero when he scored a treble against Eintracht Frankfurt in April.
Felix started out training under his dad before joining Porto but after seven years, the club decided he was too small so released him at 15.
Just four years later, he is bossing the Primeira Liga and has the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester City scrambling for his signature.
City could see him as a replacement for Leroy Sane, who is thought to be a target for Bayern Munich this summer, while Atletico Madrid have also sent scouts to watch him in recent weeks.
And as Diego Simeone prepares to lose Antoine Griezmann, he may well view Felix as a suitable man to try and fill those boots.
There are high expectations for Felix, both from within his club and across his country, where he is seen as the natural heir to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne.
And his transition from a playmaker in the No10 role to a goalscoring striker has got Benfica legend Antonio Simoes very excited.
The former winger, 75, said: “I have a new reason to watch Benfica games and his name is Joao Felix.
“He is already very adult, although very young. He is a thinker with fantastic potential.
“It is always necessary to be careful not to exaggerate in appreciation, not making him a king yet.
“But no doubt we are in the presence of a prince who can perfectly become king.”
Benfica’s £105m-rated prodigy Joao Felix is the heir to King Cristiano’s throne
By JOSHUA JONES
COMPARED to Cruyff, the direct heir to Cristiano’s throne and a £105million price tag: no pressure, kid.
But that is how highly Benfica’s Joao Felix, 19, is being rated as he approaches the end of his breakthrough season.
And what a season it has been for Portuguese football’s next big thing, who looks destined for a big-money move before long.
Netting an equaliser against arch-rivals Sporting in only your second top-flight match helps.
As does scoring another, winning a penalty and being named man of the match in the reverse fixture in February.
King Cristiano was in the crowd that day, watching the man tipped to try and fill his gigantic boots.
And after Felix’s stunning performance in the 4-2 win, former Benfica vice-president Rui Romes da Silva quipped: “Portugal’s best player was at the Alvalade – and it was nice for Ronaldo to be there to watch him play.”
Da Silva may have been joking but there was at least a hint of truth: the nation is expectant.
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While keen not to overhype the latest Benfica prodigy, Simoes was asked who Felix resembles and what improvements he needs.
He added: “Johan Cruyff! He has the same elegance and form of play, but I say again, do not start calling him king because he is still just a prince.
“Felix does not need to correct anything in his game but has to continue to be taught.”