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Why Man Utd have edge on Barcelona, Inter Milan in battle for Cruzeiro whiz Lucas Silva

Champions-elect Cruzeiro are becoming increasingly resigned to losing young midfielder Lucas Silva to Europe in 2015.

Spooked by Silva's agent informing them of contact with Manchester United and Inter Milan, Cruzeiro's board last month moved to tie young midfielder Bruno Edgard, 20, to a new deal through to 2019. For many inside the club, Edgard is seen as Silva's natural successor.

Though only 21 himself, Silva is firmly established in coach Marcelo Oliveira's team as their prime midfield anchor. With the likes of former Arsenal midfielder Julio Baptista and last season's Player of the Year, Everton Ribeiro, alongside him, Silva has thrived since Oliveira's arrival last year.

United and Inter had scouts regularly posted to Cruzeiro matches during 2013, with Ribeiro their main target. However, Silva's emergence also drew attention and after an outstanding Toulon tournament in the summer with Brazil U20, both European giants sounded out the midfielder's agent, Luiz Rocha, to register their interest.

"There were not many details," recalled Rocha. "(But) I confirm that I was approached by people linked to Manchester United and Inter Milan.

"There was no official proposal. We are waiting."

Since the summer market shut, sources close to Silva's camp have revealed the interest also of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

For his part, Silva is keeping his feet on the ground.

"I dream of playing in Europe, but won't get ahead of myself," says the midfielder.

"I do not want to leave anyway. I am very happy. Cruzeiro is the club where I was born and raised in pro football and if not for a very good offer, it will be good to stay here and make history."

He continued: "My management let me know if there's something, when some team talks or makes contact. They point out that it is with them and I have to be concerned about the pitch.

"I shouldn't be talking about leaving Brazil, I have to do my job here at Cruzeiro."

Those close to Cruzeiro say Silva's show of public commitment is no surprise - particularly with Oliveira remaining involved.

Silva's career with the champions appeared over before it had really begun ahead of Oliveira's arrival.

A Cruzeiro source recalled to "Lucas has really only been part of the first team for two years. But it's been no easy ride.

"Under Celso Roth (Oliveira's predecessor), he just didn't get a look in. The flashpoint appeared to be his red card against Sao Paulo. Before then, he'd played seven or eight games for Roth, but after that he wasn't seen again - he even trained away from the first team squad."

But Roth's dismissal and Oliviera's arrival not only transformed Cruzeiro into champions, but also the career of Silva.

He played over 50 games last season as Cruzeiro won the title under Oliveira at first attempt and has been a first-choice this term, helping Raposa to move nine points clear at the top of the league table.

Speaking about last season's championship, Silva knows where the credit lies: "The title was a surprise to everyone - including ourselves.

"But I think from the first day Marcelo Oliveira arrived, it all changed. He stirred us. He shook up the players, told us we could make history. Everyone was happy when he told us this, we knew we'd all get a chance under him."

Cruzeiro directors are coming around to the idea of selling Silva in 2015 - with January looming as the most likely transfer window to do business.

Barcelona had a value assessment run on Silva last month, with trusted scouts and agents rating the midfielder at €10 million. But Cruzeiro value the 21 year-old at twice that figure and will push for closer to their valuation with the player's contract running to 2017.

With Inter, Atletico and Barca all keen, the likes of United and Chelsea could be crowded out in the race for Silva's signature. However, Luiz Rocha has close ties to English football, having worked in the past with Manchester City in an official scouting capacity for over a year.

It is this relationship that leads local media sources to predicting a Premier League move in 2015 for Lucas Silva.

 For the big stories and the banter follow us on Twitter: @tribalfootball

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