Football’s transfer market often moves in mysterious ways.
From wondering why your favourite club has splashed out on a target they, seemingly, don’t need, to pulling your hair out as an obvious signing to improve their fortunes remains ignored. For fans, the summer months can be a confusing – and aggravating – time.
In Sport360’s ‘Transfer Market Mystery’ series, we attempt to delve into some of the glaring scenarios and work out what is going on.
Dias’ strong performances for club and country have drawn links to Juventus, Real Madrid and – most persistently – Manchester United.
The situation is also made pressing by the fact that the Primeira Liga champions are eagerly trying to agree a contract extension that will raise the 22-year-old’s release clause from a tempting €66 million, to an exorbitant €88m. This demand would eclipse the fee asked by Ajax for Netherlands prodigy Matthijs de Ligt and be equivalent to Leicester City’s world-record valuation of England centre-back Harry Maguire.
This potential complication saw United scouts attend Benfica’s friendly with Anderlecht on Wednesday amid the continuation of negotiations for Dias, according to Correio da Manha.
WHY HE SHOULD BE ON THE MOVE
Dias’ quality has shone through from an early age.
The Amadora-native has been a fixture in the Portugal national teams since the Under-16s, going on to make 11 senior appearances by his early 20s. His breakthrough season at Benfica also came in 2015/16, when he was aged just 18.
Standout attributes for Dias are aerial prowess and proficiency in possession. His average aerials won in 2018/19 of 3.2 was the joint-fifth highest for Aguias, plus three goals scored showcases a serious threat from set-pieces.
Dias’ average pass accuracy of 86.3 per cent from 58.3 passes per game was also the best of anyone at the club who made more than 30 top-flight appearances.
This fine form was taken into the Nations League. Only he and Real Betis defensive midfielder William Carvalho started all six matches for the eventual champions.
Both the fee and wages to secure such an emergent talent would be far less than the predicted packages for De Ligt and Maguire. The presence of an achievable release clause also makes talks simpler.
At 22, Dias’ performance levels and price tag should only rise in future.
WHY HE ISN’T
Dias’ relative youth is both positive and negative.
This dichotomy is exemplified by a propensity to make fouls. Dias picked up 10 Primeira Liga bookings last term, four more than any club-mate, at an average of 1.6 fouls per match.
In comparison, Maguire drew six bookings at an average of 0.6 fouls per Premier League fixture and De Ligt received one booking at an average of 0.7 fouls per Eredivisie match.
These statistics place Dias into a similar bracket with Fiorentina and Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic. The 21-year-old earned seven bookings in Serie A at an average of 1.8 fouls per game.
He would, however, cost approximately €15m less to purchase, is five months younger and is almost 10 centimetres taller at 1.95 metres. Plus, Milenkovic offers greater versatility as a functional right-back.
This raw side means that Dias benefits most from a senior partner. Club-mate Jardel, 33, and international colleague Pepe, 36, are currently required to bring out the best in him.
For United, they need such a seasoned figure to complement the promise of – Dias ex-Benfica team-mate – Sweden’s Victor Lindelof and Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly.
Juve also prioritised the signature of natural leader De Ligt over Dias.
There are few centre-backs available on the market this summer who can compare to Dias.
He’s certain to be a fixture in the Portugal XI for the next decade and a prominent figure in European club football. Scouting departments across the continent will rave about his characteristics.
But is this state of affairs enough to make him – at the time of writing – the third-most expensive centre-back in football history?
Benfica exhibited this month with the €126m deal that took 19-year-old forward Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid that they will steadfastly stick to the release clauses in their players’ contracts.
Learned minds must determine whether Dias is doable at the figures mentioned. The case is not clear-cut.
Everton are set to sign midfielder Fabian Delph from Manchester City for a fee of £8.5 million which could rise to £10m with add-ons, PA understands.
The 29-year-old England international, who had 12 months remaining on his contract, will end a four-year spell at Etihad Stadium.
Delph was restricted to just 11 Premier League appearances last season for City, who paid a club-record £62.8m fee for Atletico Madrid and Spain midfielder Rodri earlier this month.
Former Leeds and Aston Villa player Delph started for England in their Nations League Finals games against the Netherlands and Switzerland in June.
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Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Benfica -> €66m -> Arsenal
AWOL Laurent Koscielny’s fervent desire to quit Emirates Stadium has seen the Gunners plan an add-on laden deal to Benfica for their promising Portugal centre-back, according to the Daily Mail.
Why it will happen: Skipper Koscielny’s intransigence about a move back to France has put Arsenal in a tough position. Action is required and Dias is a target of rare talent. He, surprisingly, has not been picked off yet by a Champions League. This provides opportunity for the Gunners to get the job done.
Why it won’t happen: Dias’ €66m release clause would wipe out Arsenal’s meagre summer budget – and then some. A proposal to pay a small up-front fee and stick in future add-ons has been proposed. But will Benfica accept such an arrangement again after they agreed an instalment plan with Atletico Madrid for €126m talent Joao Felix? Dias’ name also continues to be linked to richer clubs, such as Manchester United.
Fiorentina -> €25m -> AC Milan
Discussions on a straight transfer fee have intensified between the clubs and an agreement for the French midfielder is close, according to gianlucadimarzio.com.
Why it will happen: Milan and Roma are competing hard to land the cultured ex-France Under-21 international, whose keen for European football next term. The Rossoneri appear to have made a breakthrough after they put forward an increased cash amount and ditched including Argentina battler Lucas Biglia in their offer. La Viola also need to make a substantial sale soon so they can initiate their own summer market plans.
Why it won’t happen: A €5m gap remains between the two sides. Fiorentina are also imminently set to meet with Roma and they could counter any Milan bid.
Transfer predictor: 8/10
Eintracht Frankfurt -> £40m -> West Ham United
The Hammers are in talks to make the ex-France Under-21 striker their replacement for Marko Arnautovic, according to Sky Sports.
Why it will happen: Manuel Pellegrini’s men are in desperate need for a new centre forward after the summer exits of Arnautovic, Lucas Perez and Andy Carroll. They have also been beaten by Valencia to the signature of Uruguay and Celta Vigo star Maxi Gomez. The Hammers are able to offer Haller and his representatives a substantial wage increase, plus meet Eintracht’s demands that would beat the club-record £35m paid to Lazio for Brazil winger Felipe Anderson last summer.
Why it won’t happen: Haller is a man in demand after he netted 19 times in 39 run-outs in 2018/19. Manchester United are reported to have identified him as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku if the Belgium target man is sold to Inter Milan. Eintracht are also flush with cash after the sale of Luka Jovic to Real Madrid and are not required to sell Haler. Waiting to see if a bidding war begins would suit them perfectly.
Transfer predictor: 7/10