Manchester United look determined to upgrade their parts ahead of next season in an attempt to reclaim the Premier League title. The issues at full-back for the club isn’t a recent problem; Patrice Evra has not performed as well as he can over the past couple of seasons and there is no one holding down the right-back position at the club. Patrice Evra’s slow yet noticeable decline over the past couple of seasons—at least since the World Cup—has prompted United to pursue Leighton Baines, but does it make the most sense?
Jordi Alba was naturally high up Alex Ferguson’s wish list this summer, but the young full-back only ever seemed destined for Barcelona. The 14 million euro fee paid for Alba will also be frustrating to those who chased the Spain international.
But one of the problems at the moment is there are very few outstanding full-backs available on the market. Maicon seems set to leave Inter this year for a fee reported to be around £6 million, when he was quoted as well over £20 million not too long ago. Arguably one of the best right-backs in the world at one time, Maicon has not been the same since that game against Tottenham.
So the question is; does the real dearth of quality full-backs lead Man United, for example, down the path toward Leighton Baines, or is he genuinely a target for the club?
Leighton Baines is arguably not a huge upgrade over what the team have now with Patrice Evra. Despite his decline, Evra is still a good player capable of contributing to United. It’s a little unclear as to whether Baines would represent a good deal for the club at this time.
His price-tag should also be a big stumbling block. Baines brings with him the consistency that he has shown with Everton, and his ability from set pieces offers another option. But he is yet to establish himself as an England international and has hardly impressed during his opportunities to play for the national side. Ashley Cole is unquestionably England’s best left-back, but considering his age, Baines should at least be knocking on the door with a considerable amount of force.
A good player, of course, whose real advantage over Evra is his age. But again, are we looking to create some form of hysteria over a player because there are so few readily available at his position? Baines has shown over the past few seasons that he is capable of providing for strikers in the penalty area; his crossing is good and he is a real threat from free-kicks within range. But the price of Baines should at least go some way to putting off United and forcing them to pursue other targets.
Of course the market in Spain is slightly different, especially when dealing with clubs like Barcelona, but Jordi Alba represents excellent value for money considering his age and recent performances. His contract would have expired next season if he did stay at Valencia, but there was too much risk in Barcelona waiting that extra year.
But unfortunately for Everton, the early transfer of Alba has gone some way to setting the trend for this summer. Everton want closer to £20 million for their left-back, and yet a Euro 2012 winner has gone for just over £10 million. It does distort the market, but it also gives a good indication as to what can be had should the right player come up.
Is Baines a good target for United? That depends entirely on the transfer fee. The club do need to strengthen considerably in central midfield, and while Shinji Kagawa should prove to be one of the buys of the season, he does not operate in the deep midfield role that needs addressing.
At the moment, it does appear that United a preparing themselves to pay heavily for a player on the basis that there is simply very little on the market in that position.