Charlotte FC have completed the signing of attacking midfielder Nuno Santos from Benfica, the club announced Thursday.

According to 90min sources, Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz is set to depart the club on a permanent basis, leaving a gap in the Charlotte FC roster ahead of their final push to make the MLS Cup Playoffs in their expansion season.

As reported by 90min, Santos was lined up as Ruiz’s replacement, with CLTFC now announcing a deal for the 23-year-old, who signs on a two-and-a-half-year contract – with an option on a third year – using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). The move is pending receipt of a P-1 visa and international transfer clearance.

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“Nuno is an intelligent attacking midfielder who chose to join Charlotte FC over European interest because he believes in our project and how this league develops young talent. He has already competed at a high level on some of the biggest stages in Portugal, European competitions, and youth international football,” CLTFC sporting director Zoran Krneta said in a club press release.

“Nuno comes to us at a good age and will be entering his prime adding valuable attacking options to the team as we continue to strengthen our roster for 2022 and beyond.” 

A 44-time international for Portugual across various youth levels, Santos is an exciting prospect. Though he never featured for Benfica’s senior team, Santos did play 74 Portuguese top-flight matches during loan spells with Pacos Ferreira, Boavista, and Moreirense, scoring seven goals and assisting another five.

Primarily a No.10, Santos can also operate on either flank or slightly deeper in the midfield. The playmaker was part of the Portugal team that won the U-19 European Championships in 2018.

Santos joins defenders Nathan Byrne and Adilson Malanda as CLTFC’s MLS secondary transfer window deadline day signings, while Venezuelan center-back Christian Makoun departed for the New England Revolution.

Charlotte FC currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference and host the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

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