Rennes have signed Benfica forward Nelson Oliveira on a season-long loan with an option to complete a permanent deal.
The 21-year-old Portugal international seemed to be bound for Stoke City and had been lined up to join the club on their current tour of the United States, with manager Mark Hughes speaking publicly this week of his hope a deal would be completed.
However, Oliveira has instead opted for a move to Ligue 1. Philippe Montanier, the Rennes coach, told his club’s official website he was delighted to complete the signing.
“Nelson was our priority,” Montanier, who last season led Real Sociedad towards Champions League qualification, said. “He is a player of promise and all-round ability. He has pace and knows how to work the space. He is very good technically, but also athletic.”
The player added in an interview on the Rennes site that Montanier’s interest had been key.
“It meant a lot,” Oliveira said. “I saw how he changed Real Sociedad last year. He called me several times and made clear he wanted me. That was a very important factor in my move to Rennes.”
He added: “This is a team that is regularly involved in the Champions League. This is a good French club.”
Sources close to Stoke have told ESPN FC the club feel they may been used as a tool to ramp up rival interest.