Liverpool scouts were reportedly in attendance for Sporting CP’s game on Sunday, with midfielder Manuel Ugarte linked with a move to Anfield.
While the Reds were celebrating their late, 4-3 win over Tottenham, the recruitment process carried on with scouts busy in Portugal.
According to reliable Twitter user @scoutsattending, both Liverpool and Newcastle representatives watched the clash between Sporting CP and Famalicao on Sunday night.
Their intended targets were believed to be midfielder Ugarte and centre-back Goncalo Inacio, with the Reds credited with an interest in both.
According to reports from CNN Portugal, O Jogo and A Bola over the weekend, Liverpool have made contact with Sporting regarding a deal for Ugarte.
The 22-year-old defensive midfielder is expected to depart Lisbon this summer, with Sporting holding out for his release clause of €60 million (£52.7m).
These reports have now been corroborated by Uruguayan journalist Brahian Kuchman, who wrote on Twitter that “the information is real” and “there is interest.”
It is often the case now that Liverpool’s transfer activity is more reliably covered in a player’s native country or that of the league in which they play.
With Ugarte, that is now true for both, though it remains to be seen if these early talks with Sporting result in a concrete move for the midfielder.
Liverpool are interested in a range of midfielders ahead of a summer transfer window that will see at least two brought in and four leave.
Mason Mount and Ryan Gravenberch have been heavily linked of late, along with the likes of Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Joao Palhinha, Khephran Thuram, Matheus Nunes, Conor Gallagher and Alex Scott.
Few are of the mould of Ugarte, though, who is adept in the No. 6 role, with interest in him, Caicedo and Palhinha suggesting competition is being sought for Fabinho.
Ugarte played 73 minutes of Sunday’s 2-1 victory over former club Famalicao, being withdrawn in the second half having picked up a yellow card.
He operated as part of a two-man central unit in a 3-4-3 formation, with Inacio in the middle of a trio of centre-backs.
Goals from Hidemasa Morita and Ricardo Esgaio gave Sporting a two-goal lead, only for ex-Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates’ own goal to give Famalicao hope in the second half.
Speaking to A Bola after his side’s win, manager Ruben Amorim acknowledged potential interest in Monaco midfielder Jean Lucas, while joking that he “saw in a newspaper that Ugarte is already sold.”
He added that Dani Braganca is “coming back” after a long-term injury and that teenager Dario Essugo “needs more space,” hinting that a succession plan is already in place.