We often think of the Premier League as the greatest top flight in world football but in terms of recent success, that unofficial title has to go to La Liga.
After all, Barcelona have dominated the Champions League for the best part of the last decade and won it again last season, whilst fellow Spanish outfit Sevilla won the CL’s sister competition – the much maligned Europa League.
If silverware is the ultimate barometer of quality then La Liga is European football’s biggest pool of talent right now, which is why the Premier League’s top clubs have seen no shame in adopting some of Barca and Real Madrid’s off-cuts over the last few summers; namely Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria.
Thus, it’s more than likely we’ll see a few more La Liga stars turn up on English shores before the transfer window closes on September 1st. With that in mind, Football Fancast have taken a look at four members of the Spanish top flight who could be snapped up by Manchester United based on recent speculation.
Let’s start with the obvious – Barcelona winger-forward Pedro. Manchester United need a replacement for now-PSG star Angel Di Maria and the Spain international appears to be the perfect candidate.
As a three-time Champions League winner, a five-time La Liga winner, a 2010 World Cup winner and a 2012 European Championship winner, the 27 year-old offers the top level experience certain areas of the starting Xi currently lack.
Likewise, Pedro possesses all the requisites to be a huge hit in the Premier League. He’s blessed with all the technical quality you’d expect from a life-long Barca servant but is also sensationally industrious, doing all the legwork for Lionel Messi in David Villa in what is still widely regarded as the greatest club XI of all time.
According to Sky Sports’ La Liga correspondent Guillem Balage, United have already agreed personal terms with the 5 foot 6 attacker but there still seems to be some disagreement over price, despite Pedro’s ludicrously cheap £22million release clause.
And The Daily Mail believe that hesitation could see Chelsea launch a rival bid for Pedro, following the poor start to their Premier League title defence.
Chief Executive Ed Woodward flew out to Barcelona yesterday to try and help along the Pedro negotiations, but The Daily Mail believe he was also there to run the rule over Aymeric Laporte during Athletic Bilbao’s 5-1 Super Cup win over Barcelona.
As one of the most exciting defensive prospects in La Liga, last season averaging the third-most interceptions per match (3.7) of any player in the division, the 21 year-old is no stranger to the Old Trafford transfer radar and has been linked with a United switch on countless occasions before.
But the situation feels slightly different this time around; the Red Devils unquestionably require improved options at centre-half and have already fallen short in their pursuits of Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos, so Laporte could be one of Louis van Gaal’s preferred alternatives.
As an incredibly athletic defender with a quick turn of pace, an astute reading of the game and plenty of quality on the ball – in typical Basque product style – he certainly shares characteristics with the aforementioned ball-playing centre-backs the United gaffer has already targeted this summer.
Whether United can sign the France U21 for a reasonable price, however, remains to be seen. He signed a contract extension in June, raising his release clause to £36.5million.
Arsenal are widely viewed as the favourites to sign Karim Benzema this summer but considering Wayne Rooney’s goal-shy start to the season, we could see the Red Devils launch a bid for the Real Madrid striker too.
After all, there’s no questioning the France international’s suitability with the Premier League, as an incredibly complete, old-fashioned centre-forward with great power, pace, aerial threat, aggression and two exceptionally classy feet – which is why Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to bring him to Old Trafford after emerging as a real force at Euro 2008.
The 27 year-old went on to join Los Blancos instead, since conjuring up the perhaps not-so-impressive total of 133 goals in 281 appearances. But that’s exactly why Benzema could be such a smart signing for United; following six years stuck behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts, he’s still got a point to prove.
Rafa Benitez has continually insisted the 6 foot 2 front-man won’t be sold this summer but the decision could well be out of his hands, considering president Florentino Perez’ tight grip on transfer affairs over the last few years.
The tabloids believe Benzema could be allowed to leave the Bernabeu for around £45million. But with Real and United still seeking some form of resolution over the rather uncertain David De Gea situation, a swap deal certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
And should David De Gea’s long-awaited move to Real Madrid eventually go ahead, Manchester United will need a replacement for their PFA Player of the Year nominated goalkeeper – at which point, I turn your attentions to Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak.
The Slovenian international only joined the Vincente Calderon ranks last summer from Benfica and has thus far managed just 21 appearances across all competitions for the Mattress Makers, having started the 2014/15 campaign as second choice to Miguel Moya.
But the prodigious shot-stopper demonstrated his huge potential in La Liga, making 17 saves and keeping seven clean sheets in eleven league outings, and didn’t look too shabby when called upon in the Champions League either.
The 22 year-old has already been mooted as a potential United by Mirror Football, who believe £21.5million might be just enough to get him.
Should Atletico be reluctant to sell, however, which seems incredibly likely, his contract includes a £30million release clause. Certainly steep, but potentially less than Tottenham would demand for fellow goalkeeping target Hugo Lloris.