Sporting Lisbon boss Jorge Silas said he was “starting to think of alternatives” amid speculation Manchester United are closing in on signing Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes was linked with both United and Tottenham last summer, but the Red Devils appear to have moved ahead in the race to sign him, with the fee expected to be around €70million (£60m).
It is thought the 25-year-old Portugal international could wrap up a move to United in the January transfer window after Sporting president Frederico Varandas and sporting director Hugo Viana discussed a possible deal with United chiefs.
And Sporting head coach Silas described his captain as “the best player in the league” and admitted it was inevitable he would leave sooner or later.
“He’s a huge player. All players like Bruno always have a lot of market,” said Silas.
“We know that he’ll always be a much talked of player and sought by clubs as big as they say.
“I hope that doesn’t happen. In Portugal, unfortunately, we can’t keep the best players for long. Bruno is the best player in the league.”
Meanwhile, it has been claimed that United could sign Fernandes for a smaller initial outlay than Tottenham were offering when their £60million bid was rejected last summer.
Sky Sports man Dharmesh Sheth said: “The O Jogo newspaper have very strong links with Sporting Lisbon and they say that the president Frederico Verandas and their sporting director Hugo Viana are in London meeting United officials.
“They also report that Sporting would accept a £60million bid for Fernandes – that’s the same that they rejected from Tottenham.
“They rejected that because the instalments that Tottenham were offering were simply unrealistic.”
He added: “You might ask why they would accept that if they rejected £60m in the summer, we’re told that Sporting are having a few financial difficulties and that an revised offer would therefore be considered.
“You could say that United could conceivably put a smaller amount up front but as long as their instalments were achievable, it seems that Sporting might accept that kind of a deal.”
Attacking midfielder Fernandes has scored six goals in 14 league appearances for Sporting this season, also contributing seven assists.