For months it seemed like Antoine Griezmann’s proposed move to Manchester United was written in the stars.
The Frenchman has previously spoken of his admiration of Old Trafford icon David Beckham, citing the Englishman as the reason he wears the number seven shirt.
He also had only good things to say of the club and United for their part, saw in Griezmann a superstar who suited them perfectly. Phenomenally gifted, hard working, proven and marketable, he checked all the right boxes.
Then came that interview on French television when he rated his chances of a move to United “six out of 10”, a rating that presumably went up after they secured Champions League football by winning the Europa League.
The speculation only seemed to grow from there but just when you thought it was going to develop into a protracted summer transfer saga, much like Paul Pogba’s last summer, it all came to a screeching halt.
Atletico’s transfer ban was upheld, preventing them from signing players until January 2018.
That led Griezmann to announce that he would stay put, sparing the La Liga outfit what would have been a crushing blow for them if he were to leave while they didn’t have the ability to replace him.
As such, United are now in the hunt for a top class centre forward. Here, we look at five alternatives to Griezmann.
You can’t deny Romelu Lukaku’s effectiveness. Over the course of his Premier League career, he’s always scored goals, producing a whopping 51 goals in 106 league appearances since arriving at Everton. The Belgian’s record speaks for itself.
It seems as though Chelsea lead the race to buy back their former striker. Given that Jose Mourinho sold him to the Toffees for £28 million in 2014, a move to United now seems a little improbable.
The problem with Lukaku is that he can be accused of scoring in spurts, plundering five or six over two games and then going missing for the next four. His record against top opposition also leaves much to be desired.
A big burly striker upfront may not be the ideal scenario for United either, a team which consistently seems to lack genuine pace in their attacking line.
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic fit in well, his ability to drop deep and create played a big part in that whereas Lukaku is not known for his link up play.
Having said that, the Everton striker has excelled at a team with limited service and that’s admirable. It’s also sometimes easy to forget that he’s only 24.
COMPATIBILITY – 5/10
4 - Romelu Lukaku is one of four players in PL history to score 80+ goals before turning 24 (also Owen, Fowler & Rooney). Coveted. pic.twitter.com/t0UUMWm9YY— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 6, 2017
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That’s been the story of Alvaro Morata’s career so far which is quite unfair given that he is actually a well-rounded, top class striker.
After two fine seasons at Juventus, he returned to the Bernabeu this season and despite having to play second fiddle to Karim Benezema, out-scored him with 15 goals in 14 La Liga starts while the Frenchman could only muster 11 in 23.
The Spaniard has no significant weaknesses. He’s strong, good in the air, quick, has a good first touch, can create and is absolutely lethal in front of goal. He also boasts a good work rate and Mourinho is also known to be fan, having handed him his senior debut at Madrid.
With Los Blancos eyeing up David de Gea this summer, again, Morata could well be part of the deal. He certainly ticks all the right boxes. Let’s not forget that he worked well with Paul Pogba back in Turin as well.
COMPATIBILITY – 8/10
Andrea Belotti is the kind of player who would endear himself to any set of fans. That’s just one of the characteristics he shares with former United poacher Javier Hernandez. Like the Mexican, he is a genuine fox in the box.
His runs are impeccably timed and he’s always on hand to pounce on a loose ball. The Torino man however is more combative and while Hernandez was all about running in behind the defence, Belotti is comfortable holding the ball up as well.
He’s also tremendous in the air, undoubtedly benefiting from his 6ft 1in frame. All in all, he would be a sound acquisition for United and would score goals but he doesn’t fit the superstar billing and may not be that effective in games where he’s starved of service. Odds are, he’ll stay put, at least for now.
COMPATIBILITY – 6/10
Andrea Belotti. Il Gallo. Year Of The Rooster. pic.twitter.com/eSJCPFSazx— Jørge (@MRC_Jorge) May 30, 2017
After three successive prolific seasons at Lyon, the Frenchman looks ready to take the next step and move to a bigger club. He appeared to have his sights set on Atletico Madrid with Griezmann seemingly destined for United but the transfer ban threw a spanner in the works.
The 26-year-old is now considering waiting a year but there’s every chance he could change his mind if United swoop in with a good offer. And if it’s more pace Mourinho craves in his attacking line, Lacazette would provide it, and then some.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s also proven to be a lethal finisher and a fine header of the ball. So far though, most reports claim the Frenchman to be a back-up option rather than United’s first choice.
COMPATIBILITY – 7/10
Alexandre Lacazette's last three Ligue 1 seasons:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 2, 2017
27 goals in 2014/15
21 goals in 2015/16
28 goals in 2016/17
Born goalscorer. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/osN5DMuvnT
Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to sign Kylian Mbappe at the moment? The youngster has taken European football by storm, scoring 26 goals in his debut season. He’s already proven himself against some of the best players in the world and has shown a willingness to shoulder responsibility in big games. Oh, and he’s only 18.
The Monaco attacker has blistering pace, quick feet and a great eye for goal. It’s scary to think that he’s nowhere near his peak at the moment and the biggest clubs in Europe would love to snap him up now instead of spending twice as much down the line.
He is a bit raw, sometimes careless with his passing or a little over enthusiastic. He’s not great in aerial duels either but he will most definitely improve with experience.
Any team would be lucky to have him and the fact is, United are one of the few with the means to sign him up this summer, with Madrid probably the greatest threat.
COMPATIBILITY – 8/10
Kylian Mbappé scored 6 goals from just 15 shots in the Champions League knockout stage this season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 4, 2017
40% conversion rate. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/URJ74SshqE
With the transfer window set to open next month, the frenetic nature of speculation has already begun.
Rumours are starting to gather pace and we take a look at the latest stories doing the rounds in the media.
Will any of the following deals happen?
Premier League champions Chelsea have received up to six offers for the Burkina Faso international striker, according to reports in England.
The 21-year-old, who signed for the Blues back in 2013 but has spent the last three seasons out on loan – including a memorable spell at Dutch giants Ajax last term, is likely to join up with Antonio Conte’s men for pre-season before a decision is made over his long-term future.
And with plenty of offers on the table, including rumoured interested clubs Everton, West Ham and Lyon, Chelsea may decide to send Traore back out on loan if they feel they already have enough strength in depth in attack.
There has been talk the forward could be part of a deal which sees Romelu Lukaku return to Stamford Bridge.
However, Tuttomercatoweb is reporting that Chelsea are prepared to wait and assess the situation before making a concrete decision on Traore.
SPORT360 VERDICT: Chelsea clearly rate Traore and Conte would have been impressed by his goalscoring for Ajax (13 goals in all competitions last term) but, if he isn’t guaranteed first-team football for the coming season, the Blues will be willing to let his progression continue elsewhere.
Marseille want to sign the Barcelona defender this summer, according to L’Equipe.
Boss Rudi Garcia has made the experienced French centre-back a priority as he begins to mould a squad together to challenge for Champions League football next term.
Having reportedly withdrawn their interest in Bacary Sagna, the Olympians are confident they will land the 33-year-old who has been nothing more than a squad player since his arrival at the Nou Camp three seasons ago.
Mathieu, who has previously had stints with Sochaux and Toulouse in France, has one year to go on his current Barca deal and would be available on the cheap.
SPORT360 VERDICT: By all accounts, this looks like a done deal as new Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde gets to work on clearing out the dead work.
The Lazio captain is on the brink of joining AC Milan in a deal worth £20m, according to reports in Italy.
The Argentine, who has become a cult hero for the Serie A club, was expected to pen new terms with Simone Inzaghi’s men but it now looks likely he will leave the Stadio Olimpico club.
Biglia, who has spent four seasons with Lazio, will reportedly join the San Siro side in the coming weeks – with Sky Sport Italia suggesting he will be offered a three-year contract.
SPORT360 VERDICT: The 31-year-old has been a key man for Lazio in recent seasons but he’s unlikely to spurn the chance of joining the revolution at Milan.
Veteran defender Pepe has said he will leave Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer after 10 years at the club.
The 34-year-old Portuguese has made 334 appearances while helping Real to three LaLiga titles and three Champions League crowns, but it appears his spell in the Spanish capital is coming to a muted end.
Pepe announced his departure himself in an interview with Spanish radio station COPE, and said he had not had a farewell conversation with Zinedine Zidane in the wake of Madrid’s latest Champions League title, won in Cardiff on Saturday.
“What he has done for Real Madrid is spectacular, but there are things I still do not understand,” Pepe said. “I didn’t say goodbye because they knew before I did.”
Pepe has slipped behind both Raphael Varane and Nacho in the battle to play alongside captain Sergio Ramos in the Madrid defence, and a parting of the ways had looked likely throughout the season as his contract ticked down.
“I’ve had years of great pride in which I have given my body and soul,” he said. “But I took the decision in January when it was clear which way it was going. I’m happy for the love of the people, and that’s worth more than everything.”
Pepe has already been linked with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, but he said it was too soon to say where he might play next.
“There are more proposals, also from England,” he said.
Provided by Press Association