GUNNERS fans may still be smarting that Arsene Wenger missed out on signing Cristiano Ronaldo – but this might just make up for it.
Arsenal are reportedly ready to pay £41million to land Portuguese wonderkid Joelson Fernandes, 17, dubbed the ‘next Ronaldo’.
And they’re believed to be heading a queue of clubs, including Barcelona and Juventus.
If Mikel Arteta can pull the move off, it would be a statement of intent from the North London giants.
This month, Fernandes broke Ronaldo’s longstanding Sporting record – becoming their youngest ever player when he came onto the pitch as a late sub against Gil Vicente.
That rapid rise, as well as his dancing feet, have meant the comparisons with CR7 are inevitable.
The wing-wizard certainly has a huge future in the game.
Over the years, Sporting have produced some of the world’s greatest widemen.
Ronaldo aside, Luis Figo, Nani, and Ricardo Quaresma have all hugged the touchline for the Lions and been remembered for their outstanding wing-play.
Fernandes admits following in the footsteps of those legends does put pressure on him.
However, he can only do his best.
“It is true that being compared to these players puts a little extra pressure on me,” he told Portuguese newspaper O Jogo.
“I try to follow their example and play the best I can in each game.”
FOOTBALL IN THE FAMILY
Fernandes was born with football in his blood.
His father Eusebio Mango played at youth level with Porto and Sporting, before enjoying a career in Portugal’s lower leagues.
While his younger brother Sana, who also lives and breathes football, is on Sporting’s books.
The pair were seen during lockdown practicing their ball skills on the street outside their apartment.
But Joelson spent his early years in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau.
His football education began with Academia Valusa do Bairro Militar, an amateur team just outside the capital Bissau.
At the age of 11, his family decided to move to Portugal in search of a better life.
Soon, his talents were discovered by Sporting’s scouts and he joined their youth academy.
Every weekend, Fernandes would travel 155 miles from his home in Aveiro on the Portuguese coast to Lisbon to train with his team-mates.
At 13, he joined the club’s academy full-time and moved to the capital.
From then, there was no looking back for the young starlet – who worked his way through the youth team, playing in age groups above his own.
Internationally, Fernandes has also represented Portugal at U15, U16, and U17 level.
And before he broke into the first team, he starred for the U23s – scoring five times in 28 games and registering two assists.
It’s worth noting he only turned 17 five months ago.
Europe’s top clubs are watching Fernandes, who has a £41million price tag on his head.
For that reason, it’s believed Sporting are looking to extend his contract to 2025, while including a £71million release clause.
Fernandes is keeping his feet on the ground, though.
“It is very flattering and I think it represents the value of my work,” he revealed.
“I did not look at that alleged interest very much, I am happy where I am and fighting to achieve my dream, which is to play for Sporting’s first team.
“Nobody has told me about this extension offer yet. Besides, I try not to think about these things too much. I just want to play football.”
Whether that’s at Sporting or in the Premier League next season, we’ll just have to wait and see.