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Bruno Fernandes: The 'traitor' Man Utd are pushing Sporting CP to sell

Bruno Fernandes. Judas or saviour? Mercenary or loyalist? Well, if Sporting CP get their way. And their price. The club will have much more to be grateful to their captain for than any lingering resentment from his summer actions...

€100m. That was the price raised by Sporting officials in their meeting with Manchester United counterparts earlier this month. In the first week of March, has learned, a Sporting delegation travelled to Manchester. On United's request. To get the ball rolling on negotiations for Fernandes. That Sporting accepted the invitation shows a willingness to sell. But they won't be pushed around. And the summit broke up with that €100m figure left on the table.

And should United bite, it'll represent a more than tidy profit for Sporting. Try over €90m. The Lisbon giants paying Sampdoria just €8.5m for Fernandes two years ago.

"It was a surprise he was allowed to leave for €8.5m," says Fiorentina's Portuguese sports director Carlos Freitas. "I don't think he really wanted to go.

"Now they're always talking about him in Italy. They realise he was an outstanding midfield prospect."

And it was that €8.5m fee which played a big role in Fernandes signing new terms last summer. Those fans and ex-directors still upset with the club captain would do well to remind themselves of that fact should Sporting get anywhere close to what they're demanding from United.

So where does this resentment stem from? Well, Fernandes was present at the Alcochete academy when it was attacked by ultras at the end of last season. Fernandes among those to be injured in the raid. And while the board appealed for calm, he took the option to rescind his contract. Effectively making him a free agent. However, as the likes of Rui Patricio (Wolves) and Gelson Martins (Atletico Madrid) jumped ship, Fernandes had a change of heart.

"Sporting bet on me, paid €8.5m for me, for a Portuguese club it's a lot of money, and I felt, and I feel, a little bit in debt," says Fernandes, explaining the decision to re-sign. "Obviously after canceling the contract all these things come to mind, and you obviously think about what you went through at the club, you had one negative moment in a whole year, a moment that nobody expected. But then there were also the good times."

And contrary to claims that have run for much of the season, Fernandes insists he never sought to exploit the situation.

"I told my agent I did not want one euro more from my previous deal," he continued. "I was happy to sign the same contract.

"The people who call me mercenary and Judas can be completely comfortable to continue doing so because they are things that just pass me by."

The good news is the numbers of those still upset with the midfielder are dwindling - particularly with the form he is producing.

"It's the best year of my career," says Fernandes, which is some achievement considering the Alcochete turmoil and a shortened preseason due to the World Cup.

"Obviously it was an unusual preseason compared to what is normal, but the focus and goals had to be maintained."

For those who have come in contact with Fernandes over the years, his rise this season is no surprise.

Former junior teammate Bruno Vieira, now with Padroense, recalls: "He evolved immensely in the first year with the juniors (of Boavista), then in the second year when he went to Italy to represent Novara, he exploded completely."

Former Sporting coach Jorge Jesus is adamant it was he who first saw in Fernandes what those in Italy, where he would play for Udinese, Sampdoria and Novara, could not.

"I always said that Bruno Fernandes was the best midfielder in this championship," says the veteran coach. "It gives me joy, I am proud to see him playing at an above-average level, because he was a player who in Italy, played from time to time and they did not see anything in him. But I was able to see something, fortunately this is another jackpot for Sporting."

Another Sporting "jackpot"? That's a claim Antonio Oliveira agrees with. The former Portugal coach conceding Fernandes is sure to move abroad this summer.

"He has a happy future and I'm only sorry that Sporting cannot hold him," says Oliveira. "Portugal is a talent pool and Bruno is another one that will go abroad, I see him in a big club that fights for titles.

"He will be able to play in the Premier League, which is an excellent championship for any player."

Indeed, while Juventus and Real Madrid have expressed interest, England does appear the most likely destination for Fernandes.

The 24 year-old is an English speaker, using the language - at 17 - in his first weeks with Novara to communicate with his new teammates. And his older brother Ricardo, a former pro with Nogueirense, has been working at a London hospital for the past 18 months.

"I will be honest, with the level he has reached Sporting is already small for him," insists his old Boavista pal Vieira. "He always said he had the dream of playing in England or Spain. Italy? I do not see him going back.

"Bruno always wants more, he's never satisfied."

Which is just what Sporting will be banking on for their return visit to Manchester in the coming weeks.

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Chris Beattie
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