The summer will be here before you know it, and so there’s no doubt that one club that will be busier than most in the transfer window will be Manchester United. Before I get to the 5 footballers who are the most likely transfer targets for the Red Devils, let me rewind and review the certain progression that a signing of a player undertakes.
First, a club identifies a transfer target who fits their needs. This can be through word of mouth, video or in-person evaluation (a hired scout).
Next, contact is made between a buying club and the potential sellers (or the talent’s representatives) to gauge interest in a mutual deal.
Once contact has been made and it has been determined that there is interest in a potential move, the buying club sends representatives out to see the talent in-person and to meet with individuals from the selling club and/or the player’s representatives.
Fans can gauge the seriousness of a club’s interest in signing a player by the level of the buying club’s ‘representative’ who makes this in-person appearance. For example, media reports often surface of a scout or assistant coach being sent to watch a match in Serie A or La Liga. That would be a sign of early interest.
But if a first team manager makes an in-person appearance, that ‘transfer target’ is of major importance and talks between the buyers and sellers (or a player’s representatives) are past the initial “getting to know you” phase. Of course, a manager can attend a match simply to scout for himself. But when he makes multiple appearances, it means he’s doing more than just evaluating.
Face to face conversations, negotiations and evaluations are immensely important. The potential buyers get to meet all parties involved with the talent, and the buyers can sell the “benefits” of signing with their club (i.e. – how the player fits in with the squad, transfer fees, potential wages, etc.) to the player’s representatives.
If a high ranking representative makes more than one in-person appearance, this means there is ‘considerable’ interest from all parties involved. Clubs don’t waste time on travel and face-to-face conversation chasing “dead end” targets.
Based on this, and the public declaration by CEO Ed Woodward that the club will spend heavily during the next transfer window, here are Manchester United’s best chances at summer signings:
1. William Carvalho – Midfielder – Sporting Lisbon FC
Brief Description: 21-year-old Portuguese international. Physically imposing (6’2) and exudes composure on the pitch. Has registered interest from Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Carvalho is signed with Lisbon until 2018 and has a hefty £37million buyout clause.
Transfer Assessment: United have sent representatives to see Carvalho numerous times this season; David Moyes has personally made the trip thirteen times. The Portuguese midfielder’s recent comments have eluded to a potential move: “[My future could be with] Manchester United or Real Madrid. It’s nice to have a great European club after me, but at the moment I’m totally focused on Sporting and doing my best until the end of the season. At the end of the campaign, we will see what happens.”
Since United and Lisbon have previously done business together (the transfers of Nani and Ronaldo) and United are willing to pay Carvalho’s buy-out clause, there is a solid chance the player will move to Old Trafford.
Man United’s chance of signing: 70-75%
2. Eliaquim Mangala – Defender – FC Porto
Brief Description: 23-year-old French international. Looked at as the “perfect” replacement for Nemanja Vidic due to his ability to “command” the centre-half position. Has recently made in-roads with the French national team; impressed many people with his defensive display against the Netherlands last week. Mangala has a £35m buy-out clause in his current contract.
Transfer Assessment: Once again, this is a player who United have scouted numerous times; with David Moyes making five in-person appearances (including last week in France). And the club has negotiated a transfer for a Porto player in recent history (2006 – Anderson).
United will be in a battle to win the defender’s signature over the summer. Manchester City nearly acquired Mangala during the January window before an eventual move fell through. City, as well as Chelsea, are expected to come back during the next window for the Les Blues defender.
Man United’s chances of signing: 65-70%
3. Juan Bernat – Left Back – Valencia CF
Brief Description: 21-year-old is a converted winger who has drawn comparisons to Jordi Alba of Barcelona and Alberto Moreno at Sevilla. Bernat has a knack for dispossessing the opposition and in 21 La Liga appearances has only committed nine fouls; receiving just one yellow card.
Transfer Assessment: United has only been recently linked with the player, although their chief Spanish scout is extremely high on the defender’s abilities. The Premier League club has been looking for alternative transfer targets at this position since their failure to sign Leighton Baines and because it is unlikely they will sign Luke Shaw of Southampton (who is heavily linked with a move Chelsea). Bernat’s valuation is considerably less than the Southampton left back (Shaw is rated at £30m, while Bernat is at £6m).
The January signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea could prove a helping hand in the recruitment of the 21-year-old Bernat, since Mata was formerly a standout player at Valencia from 2007-2011.
Man United’s chances of signing: 60-65%
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4. Antoine Griezmann – Forward – Real Sociedad
Brief Description: 22-year-old striker who has scored 20 goals this season (all competitions). European scouts consider Griezmann as one of the top five young talents in La Liga. Despite his age, the French forward has made over 170 top flight appearances and has developed into Real Sociedad’s marquee player.
Transfer Assessment: United’s chief Spanish scout David Friio has nothing but high praise for the French international striker. “Griezmann would bring something,” he said. “His versatility and technique, in a tournament where space is limited, are real assets. You can’t score 15 goals in a great league without having real qualities.”
Griezmann was part of the Real Sociedad squad that met United twice during this season’s Champions League group stages. David Moyes has also made an in-person appearance at two of Griezmann’s matches this season.
The player’s stock will only rise should he get a chance to showcase his abilities in Brazil later this summer. Any move for the player will be needed to get done before June or additional interest, as well as Griezmann’s asking price, will skyrocket. Currently, the striker has a buy-out clause of £25m in a contract which will have one year to run come June.
As of this moment, United is facing possible competition from PSG and league-rival Arsenal for the forward’s signature.
Man United’s chances of signing: 55-60% (this percentage could drastically change following the World Cup).
5. Toni Kroos – Midfielder – FC Bayern Munich
Brief Description: 24-year-old German international. Kroos is an all-purpose midfielder and has assumed multiple roles for Bayern Munich. He’s considered the “complete package” according to many European experts. Kroos is a product of Bayern Munich’s youth academy and is under contract until 2015. But the player and club have been at a stalemate over a new contract with no new negotiations being scheduled until after this summer’s World Cup.
Transfer Assessment: United’s public pursuit of Kroos has been well documented. David Moyes was a “guest” of the player’s agent during a match earlier this season and the United boss was recently on-hand at the Emirates to see the midfielder put in a world class shift during Bayern’s 2-0 Champions League win over Arsenal.
A move for Kroos will be complicated. Bayern are reluctant to meet the player’s wage demands and have a history of letting player’s contracts run down (i.e. – Michael Ballack). The club will be in no rush to sell the player should they continue to have difficulties negotiating a new contract.
Kroos does have a £30m buy-out clause in his contract and United are reported willing to offer the midfielder £250k-per-week to leave the German giants. Bayern may be tempted to move the player because of the amount of money involved with his transfer. The Bundesliga club also have numerous midfielding options at their disposal.
Pep Guardiola has addressed the player’s importance at the club, but has also let it be known that no one is ‘indispensable’: “He [Kroos] is an important player but things can move fast in football. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
Recent reports in the media have stated that Kroos has discussed a possible move with family members. And today, prior to Bayern Munich’s second leg Champions League encounter with Arsenal, Kroos admitted his future with the German giants is in doubt: “No decision has been made. It is no secret that the Premier League is a possibility for me.”
The player has asked Bayern for an increase in wages to put him on the same level as Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Lahm on the Bayern Munich wage structure. Kroos currently earns less than Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara…two players Bayern brought in last summer.
Man United’s chances of signing: 60% (this percentage could change following the World Cup)
Conclusion: At present time, these are Manchester United’s “best” transfer possibilities. Over the past several weeks, David Moyes and his staff have invested the majority of their time on these players as other transfer targets have becoming less likely to move.
United’s representatives, who were frequently seen at Juventus and Borussia Dortmund matches prior to the New Year, have now focused their attention elsewhere. It appears any progress towards signing Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Ilkay Gundogan and/or Marco Reus have stalled or reached a ‘dead end’.