Sky Sports understands that the Portuguese giants have lodged a £500,000 for Rabia with his club Al Ahly, who have been quick to reject the offer.
Rabia, 21, is regarded as one of the best young prospects in African football, and both Arsenal and Hull City made requests to take him on trial last year, but again Al Ahly turned down the approaches.
Now Sporting have made the first move for Rabia, although English interest is still strong.
"Sporting Lisbon have made an offer, but Al Ahly have told us this is not enough," said Craig Honeyman, managing director of SEM - who represent the player.
"Talks are continuing, but there is interest from the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe."