Liverpool had scouts present at one of the biggest fixtures in European football over the weekend, and they’d have been hugely impressed by what they witnessed from the man on whom they were reporting.
According to 90min, the Reds were among more than a dozen clubs who sent a delegation to the Estadio da Luiz for the Lisbon derby between Benfica and Sporting CP to keep tabs on Joao Neves, who made a telling impact on an extraordinary finale to the top-of-the-table Liga Portugal clash.
The home side were trailing 1-0 when, four minutes into stoppage time, the 19-year-old netted the equaliser – and there was still time for Casper Tengstedt to complete an extraordinary turnaround with his last-gasp winner.
The equalising goal was obviously Neves’ standout contribution during a dramatic derby, but he’d already made a huge impression well before that 94th-minute intervention.
The midfielder earned the highest Sofascore rating of any player on the pitch with 8.5, showcasing his ability on the ball by completing 45 of his 50 passes (90% success rate) and four of his six dribbles, the most of any Benfica player.
However, it was his work out of possession which truly caught the eye. A haul of seven tackles and four interceptions would be quite praiseworthy on its own, but even those numbers were eclipsed by him winning an incredible 14 duels, giving a powerhouse display in the middle of the park.
With some questions still remaining about Liverpool’s defensive midfield options despite their summer revamp, Neves did everything he possibly could to catch the eye of the scouts from Merseyside on Sunday.
It wasn’t a lucky one-off performance, either. As per FBref, the 19-year-old ranks among the top 1% of positional peers in Europe for blocks, top 2% for passes attempted, top 4% for tackles and top 11% for aerial duels won and successful take-ons per 90 minutes.
Even at such a young age, the Benfica starlet already looks like a complete footballer. However, if the Reds are serious about trying to sign him, time could be of the essence, as the myriad other clubs who were watching him at the weekend could make their move with haste.