According to reports from The Daily Star, Manchester United are plotting a summer transfer swoop for Leicester City star James Maddison.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently commented that United are using the current campaign to build a squad for next season and it appears the club are indeed thinking ahead to 2019/20, with The Star claiming Maddison is on their summer agenda.
The source describes him as United’s N0.1 transfer target and claims the Red Devils could spend up to £80m on a player who set Leicester back just a quarter of that 18 months ago, when they acquired him from Norwich City.
Perhaps United’s interest and the drastic inflation in price is no real surprise: Maddison is a central figure in the Leicester side that has outperformed United in the Premier League this season and already appears a shoo-in for a top four spot.
The attacking midfielder’s output at this level perhaps isn’t as exemplary as it could be – last term brought seven goals and seven assists while he’s on five and three respectively this season – but his averages are incredibly promising for a 23-year-old.
Maddison ranks sixth throughout the Premier League for key passes per game this season, while also averaging 2.1 tackles, 2.5 shots and 1.9 dribbles.
He’s a dynamic, attacking threat from the engine room who can do a bit of everything. However, that does resemble a skill set of one player already at Old Trafford.
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It’s the transfer saga that will unfortunately never go away, but perhaps with good reason. Last summer, Paul Pogba told reporters he wanted a new challenge and even as recently as Christmas Eve, reports from Italy claimed the Frenchman wants to return to former club Juventus.
Throw in Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane’s unrelenting interest and the fact Pogba’s contract will enter its final two years come the summer (although United do have the option to extend it by a further year) and the proverbial arrows are all pointing in the same direction – the Old Trafford exit door.
United’s interest in Maddison arguably qualifies as one of those arrows too. Maddison may lack Pogba’s natural physicality, but he’s a similar player in what he brings to the midfield – dribbling ability, creative passing and goal threat.
Of course, Pep Guardiola has proved on the other side of Manchester that two like-minded offensive midfielders can play alongside each other.
But Maddison and Pogba both seem far too individualistic to mimic what David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne do as a midfield partnership and perhaps most importantly, United lack a Fernandinho or Sergio Busquets level anchor-man, who can sit behind them and weave it all together.
The more logical assumption is that Maddison will ultimately replace Pogba. That explains the intensity of the interest and the continued speculation over the World Cup winner’s exit, while solving the conundrum of how they could both fit into the same team.
He would certainly be a promising addition for United, but whether he can replace the influence of a player who bagged 13 goals and nine assists in the Premier League last season remains to be seen.