A year into the ‘Gaal-acticos’ project, Manchester United have been linked with a whole host of glamorous, exciting names to usher them into a new era. After securing Champions League entry (albeit with a potentially tricky qualifier to navigate), the Red Devils are back in the big time and raring to go. Sergio Ramos is the latest name to be linked with a blockbuster move to Old Trafford, and it’s easy to see why.
Ramos is a fiery Spanish defender with unquestionable star quality. Having won everything there is to win in the game, any deal bringing the Real Madrid defender to Manchester is likely to be eye-wateringly expensive. The World Cup winner would no doubt represent a major upgrade on United’s current centre-backs, but at 29-years-of-age there are better options available to Louis van Gaal this summer.
Ramos’ age is only half the story. Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Valencia’s Argentine beast Nicolas Otamendi are not much younger than Madrid’s centre half, but represent cheaper alternatives. Ramos is believed to earn four and a million euros a year at Real, and that figure will only rise if a move to the Premier League comes to fruition. Taking into account a transfer that is likely to be well in excess of £30m, the numbers simply do not add up. United’s recruitment policy last term was flawed, and this potential deal would suggest Ed Woodward has not learnt a thing since then.
Sure, a United line up with Ramos marshalling the defence looks a lot sounder than last term, but are looks deceiving? Ramos does not ply his trade against top class opposition week in and week out. Real Madrid often battered teams four, five, six nil last season – hardly taxing work for a centre half. Though it was his iconic header that helped secured ‘La Decima’ for the Galacticos, Ramos is simply not the solid centre-back he would have you believe. His ill-discipline is really exacerbated in games against Barcelona and the latter stages of the Champions League.
Ramos’ impetuous desire to defend on the front foot may fly in La Liga, where Real Madrid have the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez to control the play against lesser sides. So, the meticulously planned designs of Louis van Gaal may not suit Ramos’ cavalier approach.
The contract extensions given to Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling last season should also be taken into account. United are clearly looking to the future for their back line, and is hard to imagine such an expensive deal having a positive effect on the current crop. If these lot aren’t given time to develop, United could be letting themselves in for another bumpy transition in a few years. You can’t spend £30m and pay hundreds of thousands a week on a centre back every few years, while ignoring your youth players – not at Man Utd.
Clearly, Ramos is a better defender that Paddy McNair or Tyler Blackett. Clearly, Ramos is a better defender than Phil Jones or Chris Smalling. But United must plan for the future with these centre halves following their contract extensions. Ramos’ disciplinary record does not suggest he is the type to nurture nervous young centre halves. 19 red cards, a huge ego and a fiery temper and you expect him to hold Blackett’s hand in training? Or comfort Paddy McNair should he make a mistake during the season? Doubtful at best.
At 29 years of age and a swelling trophy cabinet, does Ramos truly have the desire to reinvent himself as a Manchester United legend? Or is he simply using this saga to secure one last big contract before he turns 30.
Manchester United do require defensive additions this summer as they prepare for an immensely important football season. It is up to Louis van Gaal and Ed Woodward to identify targets who fit the ethos of the club and can help them improve in all areas, not big signings for the sake of sending a message. Radamel Falcao should have taught them that.