Benfica are understood to be close to agreeing a deal to sell teenager Renato Sanches for what the Portuguese league leaders hope will be a domestic record transfer fee. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester United rank amongst a group of elite European clubs to have inquired about the availability of the high-intensity, box-to-box midfielder, who observers believe could become as valuable as Paul Pogba.

The 18-year-old central midfielder made his Benfica debut in November, quickly establishing himself as the Portuguese game's most impressive talent. 'Bulo,' as he is known in his home country, has been rewarded with two new Benfica contracts in the space of four months, raising his release clause to first €45million in August, then €80m in December; a mere fortnight after his first senior start.

Such is the interest in the teenager that individuals close to the terms of his summer sale are expected to be agreed as early as this month. Though Benfica are pushing for a transfer fee of €60m, his eventual price is not expected to exceed €50m, including performance-related bonuses.

United's interest in Renato Sanches is indicative of the speed at which Europe's most affluent clubs seek to move for the game's emerging talents. The teenager has started just 12 top-tier games for Benfica and has yet to be called up by Fernando Santos for Portugal's full national team, yet is already the focus of an international auction for his services. 

According to sources familiar with transfer negotiations, United's hesitation in concluding the deal – a familiar feature of the English Premier League club's recent talent recruitment – threatens to result in them losing the player to a more aggressive rival. The deal is unconnected to discussions over Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as United's manager this summer.