Bolo in Benfica's sights
By Alex Livie. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Portuguese giants Benfica are being linked with a whole host of new faces, with Middlesbrough's Dutch midfielder Boudewijn Zenden reportedly at the top of their wish list.
Benfica are planning to make a serious assault on next season's UEFA Champions League, having claimed the Portuguese title last term, and a whole host of players have been assessed by the club.
Zenden reportedly tops Benfica's list of targets, with the club aware that the schemer has yet to ink a new deal at The Riverside.
The Dutchman is close friends with Benfica captain Simao Sabrosa from their time together at Barcelona and Zenden's father and agent, Pierre, has admitted his son is a fan of Portuguese football.
"Zenden was my team-mate and friend," said Sabrosa. "We continue to speak regularly. He is a good player and a good friend."
Zenden is likely to take some time to mull over his future, as Boro are keen for him to remain in Teesside, while he is also attracting admiring glances from elsewhere.
Pierre Zenden would appear to be aware of the link to Benfica, as he commented: "We will see what happens, but it is clear Bolo likes Portuguese football."
New coach Ronald Koeman is likely to attempt to stamp his own mark on Benfica and he has almost inevitably been linked with a raid on his former club, Ajax.
South African midfielder Steven Pienaar is said to be on Koeman's list of targets and he could be available for transfer having failed to agree a new deal with the club.
Pienaar's agent Rob Moore claims he has not been contacted by Benfica, but admits playing for the Portuguese giants would be an attractive proposition for the midfielder.
"Nobody from Benfica has spoken with me," said Moore. "So I am not really able to comment on the situation.
"But it is clear Benfica are a big club and have a coach who has worked well with Pienaar in the past.
"Pienaar has a further year to run on his contract, so if a transfer is to be completed - a club will have to contact Ajax."
Koeman would also appear to be keen on strengthening his forward line and has been linked with moves for Chelsea's Mateja Kezman and Arouna Kone of Roda JC.
Kezman has failed to shine at Stamford Bridge and it has not been made clear whether he will be handed another chance next term.
Kone, meanwhile, came close to signing for Koeman at Ajax last year, but the move was scuppered by a suspect medical.
He has since returned to top form with Roda and could be an attractive option for Koeman, although he recently inked a new deal at the Parkstad Limburg Stadium.