UK Football

Things to know about young Portugal star

There could be a big summer of spending ahead for Arsenal, with Mikel Arteta potentially being backed to the tune of £250m in order to reinvigorate his squad.

The Gunners have fallen well below the standards expected of them in recent years, and head it into the 2021/22 season with no European football to look forward to – the result of a desperately poor Premier League campaign last time out.

Many areas of the team requires strengthening, but one area in particular that Arsenal are short of quality is at left-back. Kieran Tierney is committed to the club until 2026 after signing a new five-year deal, but there aren’t many other natural options available to Arteta should anything happen to the Scot.

Cedric Soares, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka all filled in on occasion during 2020/21, but Benfica’s Nuno Tavares could be the long-term answer after Arsenal opened talks over a potential move to the Emirates Stadium.

Don’t know much about the 21-year-old? That’s entirely possible given he’s not yet a household name, but there are some intriguing nuggets of information to know about Tavares. Here’s 90min’s best bits for you to read up on.

Navajo Bakboord, Nuno Albertino Varela Tavares

Tavares in action for Benfica’s Under-19s against Ajax / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Tavares made his professional debut in 2018 for Benfica’s B side, but he’s actually not a direct graduate of their academy.

Instead, he spent three years learning his trade at rivals Sporting CP – sandwiched between spells at Casa Pia, a second division club also based in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

Benfica made their move in 2015, and it was a further three years before Tavares made the step up to senior football.

Nuno Tavares

Unusually tall for a full-back, Tavares offers great versatility / Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Tavares is naturally a left-back, but like most modern day footballers he’s capable of playing anywhere across the backline.

That said, he favours his left foot quite heavily – so whenever he’s played on the right flank for Benfica, he’s tended to cut inside when looking to get forward.

Standing 6′ tall, he can also play centrally if push comes to shove, and is exceptionally handy in the air for diagonal cross-field balls.

EURO U21 2021 qualifier"The Netherlands U21 v Portugal U21"

EURO U21 2021 qualifier”The Netherlands U21 v Portugal U21″ / ANP Sport/Getty Images

Tavares is expected to star on the senior international stage, and has plenty of pedigree behind him at youth level.

He made 22 appearances for Portugal at Under-18 and Under-19 level before stepping up to the Under-21s in 2019. He faces competition for places in the senior side, however, with Raphael Guerreiro and Nuno Mendes among the players competing for a starting spot.

If all else fails, he has Cape Verde nationality to fall back on…

Nuno Tavares

Tavares likes to get forward / Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

One particular trait of Tavares’ that will appeal to Mikel Arteta is his appetite to get forward.

Playing for a successful side like Benfica helps in that regard, but Tavares is always looking to progress the ball forward and sync up play with those further in front of him.

He’s not afraid to run with the ball, either, and has a decent turn of pace. Six assists in 24 appearances for the Eagles would suggest he has end product too.

Nuno Tavares, Luis Diaz

Nuno Tavares’ performances have caught the eye of a number of Serie A clubs / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Arsenal aren’t the only club interested in signing Tavares, with Serie A duo Napoli and Lazio are also known admirers.

There’s confidence that the young Portugal star would prefer to move to London, though, and it’s been previously reported that he won’t look to move elsewhere until he knows whether Arsenal will follow through with an official bid.

Back in March 2021, Portuguese outlet O Jogo claimd that Benfica would only entertain bids of around €30m (£25.5m) for Tavares.

Newcastle and Burnley were the alleged interested Premier League parties back then, but talk of a move to either has gone quiet. As of June, he may be available for significantly less – amid fresh reports that Benfica will accept around £15m.

Given Tavares is relatively inexperienced at the highest level, that still seems a high price to pay – but it’s his potential and ceiling that may land him a move rather than his ability to make an immediate impact.

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