Nuno Mendes has played rumours that he could be set for a big-money move to the Premier League, insisting he’s fully ‘focussed’ on Sporting for the time being and not yet an ‘elite player’.
The 18-year-old left-back was given his Sporting first-team debut last June and has since established himself as one of the most promising youngsters in Portugal, making 35 appearances this season and helping his boyhood club win the Premeira Liga title.
The teenager’s talent has not gone unnoticed among Europe’s elite, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all registering a strong interest ahead of the summer transfer window.
Reports last month suggested United had stolen a march on their rivals by opening discussions with Mendes’ representatives, with Bruno Fernandes actively encouraging Old Trafford bosses to pursue a bid for his fellow countryman.
However, during a wide-ranging interview with Portuguese outlet Record this week, Mendes was keen to distance himself from speculation of an impending move away from Sporting.
‘I’m focused on Sporting,’ the sought-after defender said.
‘I want to keep my feet on the ground.
‘I’m not an elite player yet; I’m working to get there.’
Mendes was also pressed on his future at a press conference with Portugal on Monday after being named in Fernando Santos’ 26-man squad for this summer’s European Championships.
‘I’m a Sporting player and I’m going to continue to be so I’m not thinking about that,’ he told reporters.
‘I’m more focused on the Euros and helping out the team.’
It’s been non-stop for Mendes since he broke into Sporting’s first-team just 12 months ago but he expects the adrenaline and excitement of first major international tournament to boost his energy levels.
‘I played lots of games, but the moment you are called up to the national team your energy levels shoot up to maximum levels again.
‘I’m young, I’ve got a lot to give and that’s what matters.’
Mendes has an eye-watering £61million release clause in his contract at Sporting but the Portuguese champions value him at closer to £52m and may be prepared to accept a cut-price fee given their financial difficulties.
United are confident Mendes could provide strong competition for current left-back options Luke Shaw and Alex Telles, with the latter failing to make a significant impact since his move from Porto last October.
The young full-back’s agent is Miguel Pinho, who also represents United and Portugal star Fernandes.