How Newcastle nearly signed Bruno Fernandes for FREE in 2018

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Sporting's midfielder Bruno Fernandes kicks a penalty during the Portuguese league football match Sporting CP vs SC Braga at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon on November 5, 2017
Photo: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP

Rafa Benítez has revealed how Newcastle United came close to signing Bruno Fernandes on a free transfer when he was in charge at St James' Park.

Newcastle noted the potential in a talented midfielder whilst Fernandes was still making a name for himself at Sporting Lisbon.

When Sporting failed to qualify for the Champions League in 2018, though, a group of 50 masked ultras broke into the team's training centre and attacked players and members of the coaching staff.

Sporting condemned the incident but players took action of their own, with Fernandes and several other players ripping up their contracts.

Speaking in an interview with The Times, ex-Magpies manager Benítez claimed that efforts were made to take the Portuguese playmaker to Tyneside.

Fernandes was a player we were following at Newcastle United.

He was at Sporting Lisbon and he had an issue with his club. There was a chance he could leave on a free.

We were progressing but the problem was that the matter would go to court and that would complicate it. The club didn't want that.

Fernandes ended up making peace with the club instead of leaving in summer 2018, signing a new contract with a wage hike.

A year and a half later, the 26-year-old signed for Newcastle's Premier League rivals Manchester United in a £55 million deal instead.

He wasted no time hitting the ground running by scoring eight and assisting seven in 14 league appearances during his debut Premier League campaign.

And the Portugal international has continued his remarkable levels into this season with 11 goals and seven assists with United challenging for their first title since 2013.

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