Since his move to Juventus in summer 2012, Paul Pogba has emerged as one of the most promising midfield talents in world football, going on to claim two Serie A titles and the 2013 European Golden Boy award with the Old Lady.
Lacking a middle man of such flair, ingenuity and physicality, former club Manchester United are reportedly plotting a summer swoop for the France international, once shunned from a first team role by Sir Alex Ferguson, and allegedly prepared to pay up to £55million for his services, as speculated by The Daily Express.
Perhaps not an audacious sum when compared to the record-breaking deals of recent transfer windows, yet still a figure that under Financial Fair Play regulations could restrict United’s movement in the market over the course of the next few years.
And it’s with that in mind Football Fancast considers some viable alternatives to the Real Madrid and Chelsea-linked prodigy. Can one of these FIVE midfielders prove better value for money than the Juve star?
Perhaps not yet a standout star at Manchester United’s level but certainly an integral cog in an Everton side that gained much critical acclaim last season, James McCarthy is your classic here, there and everywhere man, linking up play and breaking down opposition attacks with captivating energy.
Injuries and inconsistent form have plagued both the Ireland international and the Toffees this term, whilst Jamie Carragher has recently criticised McCarthy’s lean return of just 25 goals in 323 appearances throughout his career.
But only 24 years of age and already boasting 173 Premier League appearances, McCarthy’s potential to develop into one of the division’s most dominant midfielders is obvious.
Everton’s sorry league standing of 14th could convince the former Wigan star to jump ship this summer, and Goal.com valued him at around £20million back in January.
Real Madrid enforcer Sami Khedira may lack Paul Pogba’s output and forward play, but he more than makes up for it in energy, physicality and experience.
Summer 2014 saw the German international win his first Champions League title and World Cup in just a matter of months; a huge testament to his long-standing reputation as one of the best central midfielders in world football.
When at full throttle, few match the 27 year-old’s industry and guile as a box-to-box midfielder, but persistent injury problems over the last few years, resulting in just 24 La Liga appearances since summer 2013, has forced Khedira into less dynamic roles of late.
That being said, Khedira represents one of the coming summer window’s biggest coups, with his Bernabeu contract coming to an end. Speculation this morning however, suggests the former Stuttgart star could be on his way to Schalke.
Inter Milan talisman Fredy Guarin is a player Premier League clubs have looked at before, and his recent form – five goals and six assists in 21 Serie A appearances this season – might convince them to do so once again.
In addition to impressive output and versatility, having featured on both flanks and in defensive, central and attacking midfield this term, the Colombian international is famed for a dynamic style mimicking Paul Pogba’s, particularly in terms of his power, speed and trickery.
In fact, both Serie A stars boast similar stats this term. Pogba; 2.5 tackles, 0.8 interceptions, 2 shots, 1.5 created chances and 3 successful dribbles per match. Guarin; 2 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, 2.8 shots, 1.8 created chances and 3.1 successful dribbles per match.
Aged 28 however, landing the former Porto midfielder for the right price is imperative. Although he was valued at a more than reasonable £14million by The Express last summer, Guarin’s contract isn’t set to expire until 2017.
Edging towards the final twelve months of his contract, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan is now facing an integral crossroads in his career. Some sources claim he’s considering a move to Arsenal or Manchester United this summer, whilst others report him to be on the verge of signing a new four-year deal.
The Red Devils would be wise to get their hands on the young German, who dazzled and delighted as a hard-working yet elegant and creative midfielder during the Black-Yellows’ 2012/13 Champions League campaign, which saw them reach the tournament’s final.
A season-spanning back injury has seen the 24 year-old struggle to rekindle that same level of form since, but a return of two goals and three assists in 14 Bundesliga starts this season, in addition to averaging 1.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 1.2 chances created and 1.5 successful dribbles per match, despite Dortmund’s atrocious domestic form, suggests Gundogan is creeping back towards his best once again.
Combining culture, ingenuity and energy, the German international could be the all-action centre-mid Manchester United are searching for, although he does lack physical presence. Furthermore, if he enters the summer window with just a year left on his contract, Dortmund may find themselves compelled to let Gundogan leave on the cheap.
Following the departures of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao last summer, Joao Moutinho has really stood out in an otherwise ordinary Monaco side that knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Louis van Gaal has recently called for a more creative presence in his engine room and the Portugal international could well be the perfect candidate, famed for his passing range, technical abilities, intelligence and work-rate.
The 28 year-old is equally adept in defensive, central or attacking capacities and although participation in one of Europe’s leading top flights is still absent from his CV, Moutinho has now reached talisman status for Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Monaco whilst also racking up 76 caps on the international scene.
Although reports in November claiming the playmaking midfielder had handed in a transfer request proved false, Financial Fair Play regulations could force the French super-spenders to surrender their leading talent this summer if the right offer comes along.