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Joao Pedro: Why Man Utd have launched bid for exciting Palmeiras fullback

Joao Pedro. If Manchester United want him, they must go higher.

A first bid was turned down this summer by Palmeiras - and that was before this week's sale of Rafael to Olympique Lyon.

However, if United are serious about the 18 year-old fullback, they can sign him, with Palmeiras having had plans in place for his departure for over a year.

A teammate of United midfielder Andreas Pereira at this summer's U20 World Cup in New Zealand, Joao Pedro has been followed by scouts from the Premier League giants since his outstanding U20 South American Championships campaign earlier this year.

United's offer of €4 million, tabled a fortnight ago, was thrown out by Palmeiras football chief Alexandre Mattos. Mattos insists United must go higher for a player, who at 18 is an established first teamer in the Brasileiro. Joao Pedro signed a contract last year to 2019, which includes a buyout clause of €20 million for European clubs.

Complicating the issue for United and Palmeiras is that 50 per cent of the player's registration is owned by private investors.

Last season, under Dorival Junior, it was not only the breakout year for Joao Pedro - at just 17 he finished the campaign a first-choice and a senior goalscorer.

That first goal came against Luiz Felipe Scolari's Gremio.

"I was so happy with that," Joao Pedro recalls. "I didn't know how to celebrate. It was spontaneous.

"There's no way to explain it. It's just a great feeling to hear the fans chant your name."

Joao Pedro dedicated the first goal of his career to his grandfather, who he lost at 13 years of age.

"My grandfather was my main supporter and motivator, much more than my father (Pedro), who worked a lot when I was a kid.

"He was the first to give me boots, the first to take me to play ball and always watched me for the entire training session on the edge of the field. He guided me.

"I am very sad that he did not have a chance to see me play professionally. In fact, he did not see me even leave home. I was 13 when he passed away due to a stroke. I play for me and also for him. But he's looking over me and very happy for everything that is happening to me, I'm sure."

With United in pursuit, the next development to 'happen' for Joao Pedro could be a move to Europe.

The fullback's agent, Adriano Freire, admits he's fielding enquiries from at home and across Europe. Gremio made an attempt in May, but Freire believes Joao Pedro's next move must be to Europe.

"The market is more about Europe," he says.

"We can not talk about team names, but there's great clubs of level A and B from Europe following him. We've had enquiries from Portugal, Italy, Spain and England.

"But we're calm about it."

Joao Pedro is well aware of the buzz around him, but insists he won't lose focus on his immediate commitments with Palmeiras.

"I have to keep working and remain down to earth.

"What others say about you, well, one day you can be up and then the other down. You must keep your mind focused," says the 18 year-old.

Joao Pedro admits he draws inspiration from players in Europe - but also closer to home.

Asked who he models his game on, the youngster admits Bayern Munich fullback Philipp Lahm is a favourite.

"I really like Lahm, from Bayern Munich (Germany captain at the World Cup)," he says, before adding, "But there's a Brazilian who has inspired me a lot in the way I play.

"And that is Cafu."

Those inside the board room have long accepted Palmeiras will only be a stepping stone for Joao Pedro to bigger things. Even this season, where his campaign has been interrupted by international commitments, the interest in ferrying him away has remained intense.

Teammates also have long recognised Joao Pedro's talent - and his ability to take every challenge thrown at him in his stride. A move to a club the size of Manchester United wouldn't faze the teen, insists senior colleagues.

"Those who do not know him, could not imagine how young he is," says Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass.

"He has great maturity and an absurd physical strength with speed and personality.

"He's a boy with all the requirements to become a great right-back."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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