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Fulham have agreed a fee with Sporting CP for defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha, according to reports from Portugal.

Marco Silva’s connections have allowed the Cottagers to leapfrog ahead of Wolves in the race to sign the 26 year-old, who scored three goals in 27 appearances last term as Sporting finished second in the Primeira Liga. He was a key part of the side which reached the quarter finals of the Champions League, where they were swept aside by Manchester City.

The 6ft 3in Portuguese international came through Sporting’s youth system before being loaned to Moireirense, Belenenses and, finally, Braga, where he spent two years – making 76 appearances for the Archbishops. He helped Braga finish third in 2020/21, memorably scoring the winner in their first away win at Benfica in 65 years. Having been linked with a move away from the Lions, Palhinha forced his way into the first team – making 32 appearances as Sporting won the title by five points. He was named in the Primeira Liga team of the year.

Paulinha has won fourteen senior caps for his country and could become the latest export to move to the Premier League. Wolves remain highly interested in securing his services – and reportedly preparing to match Fulham’s offer, which is thought to be around £15m up front.