Benfica ‘love’ Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz

Portuguese champions Benfica are the latest club to register an interest in out-of-favour Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz.

Marca cite a report from Portuguese newspaper O Jogo which claims the Lisbon giants want a deal for the 26-year-old, who has not started a game this campaign to date.

Mariano has played just 44 minutes of football at all this season for Los Blancos – coming across two substitute appearances in the Spanish Supercopa earlier this month.

These appearances were fleeting and only came in light of injuries to three star forward players as Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale were all unavailable for selection.

Previous to those matches, the Dominican-born striker had been involved in just one matchday squad for Los Blancos – the defeat at Real Mallorca earlier in the campaign – but he was an unused substitute that day.

A report in Diario Sport from November claimed the striker had been offered to Espanyol as multiple reports had linked Mariano with an exit from Madrid with Real Betis and Monaco among the clubs strongly rumoured to be interested, while El Mundo Deportivo also outlined interest from Milan.

“He will go on loan for two seasons, although we have not yet decided on the club,” his agent David Aranda was cited as saying by Diario AS back in November, although no details of a destination club were disclosed.

He has been a peripheral figure across his two seasons at Madrid since his 2018 return from Lyon, which was thought to be in the region of €21.5m.

Indeed, Mariano made just three league starts in total last season – although two of those did come after Zinedine Zidane returned to the Madrid dugout in March.

Mariano scored four goals last term – in substitute appearances against Roma (in the Champions League), against Alaves in La Liga and a brace against Villarreal in April in a rare start for the club.

The latest interest from Benfica comes off the back of the Portuguese club selling Raul de Tomas – who, coincidentally, they signed from Madrid last summer – to Espanyol in a deal in the region of €22.5m.

It is believed that Benfica will look to invest most of this transfer fee back into a deal for Mariano, who looks certain to exit the Santiago Bernabeu this month, with Rodrygo Goes, Luka Jovic and Vinicius Junior among the talents higher up the Madrid pecking order.

Mariano starred in his sole campaign at French club Lyon – whom he played for between his Madrid stints – netting 21 goals in all competitions.

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