Phil Jones linked with shock Benfica loan in January

Manchester United defender Phil Jones could be a potential transfer target for Portuguese giants Benfica as he looks to get his career back on track after almost two years out.

Jones last played for United’s first-team in an FA Cup tie against Tranmere in January 2020. He has already a fringe player at best at that time, but a knee injury subsequently ruled him out of the whole of 2020/21 and has limited him to just three Under-23 appearances so far this season.

The 29-year-old, once tipped to be a future England captain while a teen prodigy at Blackburn, has more recently made it onto the bench for United’s last four Premier League games.

It suggests his injury hell is finally behind him, but Jones desperately needs to play to build up his fitness and is unlikely to get that at Old Trafford, where he is arguably now sixth choice centre-back.

Now that Jones appears ready to make a long-awaited comeback, Benfica have emerged as a rather unexpected potential destination. The Daily Mail writes that the Portuguese side are in the market for a versatile defender on a short-term loan until the end of the season, which could be a good fit.

Jones' long road to recovery ensured a move in January 2021 wasn’t possible. United have tried to secure him a loan move but Premier League clubs were hesitant about using up one of only two permitted loan spots on a player yet to prove his fitness at that stage. As of the summer, United were also willing to sanction a free transfer despite him being under contract until 2023.

Even during his long absence, interest in Jones still existed. 90min revealed in December of last year that seven Premier League clubs and Scottish giants Celtic were keeping tabs on his progress. At the time, they were Newcastle, Leicester, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United - who have since been relegated - Burnley and Southampton.

90min understands that Newcastle have enquired about Jones' availability again ahead of the January window.

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Source : 90min