Mats Hummels has once again moved to rubbish talks of a move away from Borussia Dortmund this summer. The German international has been a target for a number of clubs around Europe over the past few seasons, with Manchester United and new boss Louis van Gaal said to be admirers of the 25-year-old.
Thus far, Hummels has had a good World Cup, helping Germany to a 4-0 win over Portugal by scoring the second. As a defender comfortable on the ball, he makes sense as the long-term replacement for Rio Ferdinand.
But it appears, as it often has this summer, that United will have to look elsewhere. Judging by his attitude over the past year, it will take a lot to lure Hummels away from Dortmund.
Yet with a transfer budget of £200million, van Gaal should have his pick of a large number of centre-back talents, many of whom are at this World Cup.
These are the six alternatives for Manchester United to consider.
Bruno Martins Indi is one of a handful of young Dutch defenders taking part at this World Cup. The Feyenoord centre-back is said to be interesting a number of Premier League clubs, and it’s easy to see why. Martins Indi is immensely strong and very good in the air. Off the bat, he looks a comfortable replacement for Nemanja Vidic.
The 22-year-old has been a favourite under Louis van Gaal for the Netherlands looks set to be a feature in their starting XI for the remainder of the World Cup. It wouldn’t be a surprise if van Gaal made Martins Indi one of his summer signings once he arrives at Old Trafford.
Ezequiel Garay has had a good past few seasons with Benfica, earning a starting place for Argentina at this World Cup. The 27-year-old has regularly been linked with a move to Manchester United and now may be the right time for a move, with United in the market for centre-back additions. Garay has consistently shown his ability at both ends of the pitch, often emerging as a threat from set pieces.
He had a forgettable spell at Real Madrid, but his time at Benfica has really allowed him to blossom into one of Europe’s better centre-backs. A good World Cup will do a lot in convincing those who still doubt his quality.
26-year-old Benedikt Howedes isn’t a stranger to links to English football. The Schalke has reportedly been a target for Liverpool, among others, in the past. Due to injury to Marcel Schmelzer and the inexperience of Erik Durm, Howedes, a centre-back by trade, has been deployed at left-back for Germany at this World Cup.
Though not entirely comfortable there, he and Germany had a relatively easy game against Portugal, winning 4-0. But as a centre-back, Howedes would offer a lot to Manchester United. He’s known for his leadership qualities, as well as his versatility, able to slot in at right-back. In a pair with one other centre-back signing, Howedes would be a good addition at Old Trafford.
Dejan Lovren has reportedly handed in a transfer request, with Liverpool said to be leading the race for the Croatian’s signature. Lovren has managed to turn his career around after one season with Southampton; he didn’t leave Lyon off the back of the best form and hasn’t always been appreciated in his homeland.
But after quickly adapting to the Premier League, Lovren looks a very good option for a number of top clubs in England. Southampton’s drop in form last season can be partly attributed to the loss of Lovren to injury, highlighting just how impressive he’s been since arriving last summer.
Like many other young defenders based in the Eredivisie, Stefan de Vrij has caught the eye of plenty of teams in the Premier League.
The Feyenoord centre-back has been a regular addition in the Netherlands side, scoring one of the five goals against Spain in their World Cup opener. Feyenoord are said to be waiting on the end of the tournament in Brazil before deciding on the centre-back’s future, which makes sense as a good tournament will see his price increase.
But there’s already a lot to like about de Vrij. He’s one of many players in this Dutch team who would do well at Manchester United.
Thomas Vermaelen to Manchester United wouldn’t be as surprising as some may think. The Arsenal captain is in search of regular first-team football after losing his place in the starting XI at the Emirates, and makes sense as a replacement for Rio Ferdinand, able to bring the ball out from the back.
Vermaelen hasn’t been at his best over the past 18 months, partly deciding his fate on the bench at Arsenal. But a return to top form would see United land a very good defender, one with all the Champions League and international experience to be an instant success.