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Andre Silva on Manchester United's radar: 5 things on Porto's star man

Andre Silva is a rarity in Portuguese football. He is a striker who scores goals. A lot of goals.

Portugal's national team has been able to boast more than its fair share of the world's finest footballers over the recent years, encompassing wingers (Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo), midfielders (Rui Costa and Deco) and centre-backs (Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe), but the centre-forward position has long been problematic.

Andre Silva's prolific record at youth level for club and country, and above all the sensational start he has made to his senior career at Porto and for Portugal, has raised hopes that at last the national team may have unearthed a No. 9 of the highest order.

Unsurprisingly, many of Europe's biggest clubs are reportedly keen on him, with Manchester United are the latest to be linked.

Here are five things to know about the 21-year-old ...

Rapid ascension

Silva was bought for a paltry €500 in his mid-teens from Salgueiros, after impressing Porto's scouts as an attacking midfield playmaker. But it was upon moving to the centre-forward position that he demonstrated he had a very close relationship with the back of the net. His abundant scoring at youth level did not let up when he made the step up to Porto's B team in Portugal's second tier, and it did not take him long to make his mark when given his first team opportunity at the tail end of last season, scoring two typically clinical goals in the Portuguese Cup final against Braga.

At 21, he is Porto's most used player this season -- the only one who has played all 17 of the club's fixtures -- and has scored 10 goals, including three in the Champions League.

The hugely impressive transition to elite level football has not surprised historical club president Pinto da Costa, who believes the young prodigy was overdue his chance on the big stage, saying: "I believe Silva should have been used in our first team a lot earlier than he was."

Learning from the best: national team success and Ronaldo's partner in crime

Silva's exceptional eye for goal at youth level was particularly evident in the international game, scoring 28 goals in 37 matches for Portugal's U19, U20 and U21 sides. Remarkably, he has bettered his goal-per-game ratio since becoming a full international, scoring four goals in five matches. In October, he became the youngest-ever player to score a hat trick for Portugal in their World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands, and his partnership with Ronaldo has yielded 11 goals in three games between them.

"I'm proud to be able to play alongside Ronaldo," said Silva.

"He's the best player in the world. Just being next to him, in the same team as him, makes me happy and I hope to score lots of goals besides him."

Nani did a superb job as Ronaldo's foil at Euro 2016, but barring injury there is no doubt Silva and Ronaldo will be Portugal's first choice strike partnership for years to come.

Strengths: directness and simplicity

Silva is well-built without being physically imposing, he has good technique without being extravagantly skilful, he is no slouch but is not especially fast, but he has the one priceless attribute reserved for all great strikers -- an instinct for goal.

The hat trick against the Faroe Islands was a perfect illustration of Silva's best traits. All three goals were opportunistic strikes that came his way thanks being in the right place at the right time. He took the chances with little fuss or flamboyance but with lethal efficiency. A true penalty box predator, his intelligent movement allows him to lose his markers and ghost into scoring positions. Every one of Silva's 17 goals scored in senior football have been from inside the box, and a large proportion of them from inside the six-yard area.

Highest endorsement

Portugal legend Jose Augusto, who was part of Benfica's unstoppable double European Cup winning forward line in the 1960s that included Eusebio and who also played alongside him in Portugal's 1966 World Cup team, has no doubts that Silva is a very special talent.

"Silva is a player who was born for football and born with goalscoring intuition," said Augusto, who went on to coach a long list of clubs, including Benfica.

"Even at his age he knows where to position himself to score goals without his adversaries realising. He was born with this instinct; nobody taught him it. He's truly an extraordinary player."

Porto banking on cashing in

As a locally born player, goal machine Silva is already an idol among the Estadio do Dragao fans, but it is unlikely they will get to enjoy him for much longer.

Porto's woes on the pitch have only exacerbated the club's calamitous financial position. A €58 million loss last season set alarm bells ringing, and on Oct. 26 the club released its forecast consolidated financial accounts for 2016-17, which includes a staggering prospective windfall of €116m from outgoing transfers.

Silva is currently their most bankable player, and Portuguese website zerozero reports that both Manchester clubs are chasing him. A bidding battle would suit Porto perfectly, heightening the possibility of Silva fetching a transfer fee close to his €60m release clause. Watch this space.