Much change is expected at Manchester United this summer. Louis van Gaal is set to be replaced by Jose Mourinho at the end of the season, if not sooner, and the Red Devils will almost certainly spend big in the transfer market to improve a squad lacking genuine world-class quality.
Indeed, the Dutchman’s dreaded ‘philosophy’ has taken the majority of the heat from the media spotlight, but the Red Devils’ squad quite simply isn’t on the same level as their divisional rivals – particularly the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City – and they’ll have an untold fortune to spend during the summer as the Premier League’s £8billion TV deal comes into effect.
Consequentially, United could turn to La Liga as a potential recruitment pool. Monopolised by Barcelona and Real Madrid, the smaller clubs in the Spanish top flight simply don’t have the resources to turn down lucrative offers from the Premier League.
With that in mind, we at FootballFanCast have been running the rule over FIVE La Liga stars that are, and should be, on United’s radar ahead of the summer transfer window.
In sharp contrast to their transfer policy over the last few summers, Manchester United are targeting Sevilla star Ever Banega on a free transfer.
The Argentina international was on the Old Trafford radar before – until bizarrely running over his own leg in 2012 and resultantly spending several months on the sidelines – and after a few years out of the limelight is enjoying strong form once again.
Indeed, the 27-year-old midfielder has bagged four goals and two assists in 17 La Liga outings this term, also averaging 1.7 created chances, 1.5 shots and 1.2 successful dribbles per match.
He’d add a new sense of fluidity and creativity to United’s engine room and on a free transfer, certainly represents good value for money. However, Inter Milan are also keen and Banega could still agree a contract extension at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Manchester United lack firepower up top and quality out wide – two issues that could directly lead them to versatile Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann this summer.
Indeed, the France international earned a summer 2014 move to Vicente Calderon for his talismanic displays as Real Sociedad’s goal-scoring wide man, playing a pivotal role in their rise from the Spanish second tier to the Champions League.
But since signing for the Mattress Makers, Griezmann has netted 44 times in 87 appearances operating almost exclusively as a centre-forward, emerging as one of the most potent goalscorers in European football.
Also famed for his industriousness, energy and stamina, the 24-year-old has often been billed as a particularly good fit for the Premier League. Atletico will be incredibly reluctant to sell with their transfer embargo just around the corner, however, so United would likely have to activate Griezmann’s £60million release clause.
The heart of Manchester United’s defence is calling out for a very specific type of player; a top-class, ball-playing, left-footed centre-back – hence their long-standing interest in Mats Hummels. Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte embodies two of those requirements and certainly possesses the potential to eventually meet the third.
A loose comparison would be with Everton’s prodigious John Stones, sharing his speed and quality on the ball, but the Frenchman boasts considerably greater experience, with over 100 La Liga appearances under his belt already.
Resultantly, plenty of major clubs are interested in the 21-year-old, who has averaged an impressive 1.7 tackles, 2.8 interceptions and 2.2 aerial duels per match this season, including Manchester United.
But with such widespread interest, the Basque outfit are unlikely to budge on Laporte’s £39million release clause amid United’s interest.
Manchester United’s long-standing interest in Gareth Bale is no great secret, nor is itparticularly surprising. After all, the Real Madrid star is one of the most potent attacking threats in world football and furthermore has already proved his compatibility with the Premier League.
Indeed, the Welsh wizard bagged 26 goals across all competitions during his ultimate campaign at Tottenham Hotspur and has netted a further 52 in 109 since moving to the Bernabeu, helping Los Blancos claim a Copa del Rey and a Champions League title in 2014.
United have been continually linked with his services over the last few years and will likely be chasing him again during the summer transfer window. The 26-year-old represents exactly what the Red Devils lack in the final third, as a counter-attacking threat blessed with great power, pace and netting prowess.
But they’ll struggle to attract the £87million signing to Old Trafford this summer without the incentive of Champions League football. Furthermore, Bale seems more than happy with life in the Spanish capital at the moment.
Manchester United’s interest in Neymar – allegedly launching a world-record bid for him last summer – has been well documented this season, but it remains to be seen if they can actually convince the Brazil international to ditch the dizzy lights of the Nou Camp for poster-boy status at Old Trafford.
No doubt, Neymar is verging upon Ballon d’Or levels of greatness. He’s bagged 18 goals and nine assists in 22 La Liga appearances this term – also averaging 3.3. created chances and 4.6 successful dribbles per match – and produced a level of form unrivalled throughout world football whilst Lionel Messi was injured earlier in the campaign.
The lesser chance of claiming the individual accolade whilst playing in the same team as four-time winner Messi, coupled with the Neymar family’s ongoing tax scandal, could push the 23-year-old forward towards a Premier League move.
Recent reports, however, suggest he’s on the verge of agreeing a new contract with the Catalan outfit.