Manchester United are readying a massive €150million bid for Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to reports.
The 27-year-old has been a long-term target for United, who have been looking to add at least one centre-back since last summer.
Though the emergence of Victor Lindelof, who was recruited in summer 2017, this season has been a positive for United, the club are aware that they need another player in the position as they look to rebuild their squad into one that can challenge for major honours.
Koulibaly has been at or near the top of United’s shortlist of centre-back targets for most of this term, with speculation that a move could happen in the January window itself.
Though that never materialised, it seems the Red Devils are zeroing on the France-born Senegal star for the summer, after watching his progress in Serie A where he’s established himself as one of the league’s best defenders – and caught the eye of clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Chelsea.
A potential Koulibaly to United move has been likened to Liverpool‘s signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton last winter, with the Dutchman transforming the Reds’ defence instantly and spearheading their title charge this season.
United are hopeful that signing Koulibaly will have a similar effect, though they are aware that there are other areas of the squad that need strengthening.
In a separate report, The Sun claim United have already met with representatives of England international Jadon Sancho, who has enjoyed a stellar season for Borussia Dortmund.
The Manchester City academy product has nine goals and 13 assists for Dortmund this season as they bid to win a first Bundesliga title since 2012, and on Friday played in his first competitive game for England, providing an assist in the Three Lions’ 5-0 win over Czech Republic in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier.
He would slot into the right-wing berth at United, which has been a problem position for several years as various signings have failed to have an impact.
According to The Sun, Sancho, who joined the German club in 2017, is valued at £70million, though a potential transfer fee has been quoted as £80million and even over £100million in the media while Dortmund have publicly said they are not planning to sell the 18-year-old.
However, given the attention his performances have gotten, Sancho could well be on the move as United will reportedly have to battle it out with Paris Saint-Germain for the youngster’s signature.
Marcus Rashford’s former team-mate and captain Wayne Rooney says the 21-year-old striker has “a bit of everything” but needs to improve his heading ability.
Rooney, the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England, was full of praise for his successor in United’s No10 shirt, who made his debut for United in 2016 when Rooney was injured for a Europa League tie against Midtjyalland.
Rashford scored twice on his debut in that Round of 32 second-leg fixture, before doing the same on his Premier League debut three days later against Arsenal.
Rooney, who left United in 2017 to return to boyhood club Everton before making a move to the MLS last year, has followed his young compatriot’s rise with interest and predicts a “bright future” for Rashford for both club and country.
“He has got a bit of everything,” the 33-year-old said to talkSPORT. “He is quick, he is strong. The only thing he could probably work on is his heading.
“He is fantastic. He has got so much ability and it is great to see him doing so well. For Manchester United and England, he has certainly got a bright future.”
The right-wing berth at Manchester United has been a problem position ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2009, with only the Juventus star’s compatriot Nani looking up to the task of playing on that side – and even he never blossomed into a consistent player before leaving in 2014.
At the moment, almost all of the players Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could play in the position prefer the opposite flank, with Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez, and Marcus Rashford all more effective either through the middle or on the left. There’s no doubt that signing a right-sided attacker is one of the priorities for the upcoming transfer window.
Dream: Paulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala is more a No10 than a right winger, though he does often play on the right of a front three, and when he’s on song there aren’t many better players out there. His continued falling-out with head coach Massimiliano Allegri might mean he’s available this summer, as he looks to move to a club which will give him more playing time.
He’s had his ups and downs at Juventus, with his form suffering as a result of being in and out of the side, and he’s struggling to fit alongside Ronaldo.
But his talent is unquestionable, and he would walk into United’s starting XI. His ability to play anywhere in an attacking three is already a point in his favour.
He’d essentially be the hyper-upgraded version of Juan Mata, with greater tactical flexibility and offering more energy as part of a pressing game along with his superior attacking skills.
Realistic: Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho is an ideal signing for United. He’s young, he’s English, he’s already a rising star, and to top it off, any success he achieved in United red would serve as a twist of the knife to the club across town, as he left Manchester City in search of first-team football after graduating from their academy.
Petty one-upmanship would be a bonus, but Sancho also brings genuine talent and excitement to the table. Alongside Marco Reus he’s been a key player in Borussia Dortmund’s push for the Bundesliga title this season, with eight goals and 12 assists in the league.
And at 18, he’s the sort of player who could conceivably be at his next club for the next 10 to 15 years, if his career’s managed properly. Sancho may cost anywhere from £80m to more than £100m, but he’d be worth every penny.
Alternative: Nicolas Pepe
It’s a sign of the times that Sancho, at his price, is a realistic transfer and Nicolas Pepe with his roughly £42.5m reported release clause at Lille can be considered a cheaper alternative.
But at that price, the France-born, Ivory Coast international would be a steal.
Lille are second in Ligue 1 at the moment, and not many would have expected them to be above the likes of Lyon, Marseille, and Monaco this late into the season, though their top-three spot, with the Champions League qualification that brings, remains in a precarious position.
But whether they qualify for Europe’s premier club competition or not, it’s hard to see how they hold on to Pepe, who has 18 goals and eight assists in 31 appearances in 2018/19, this summer.
Drogba on Nicolas Pepe: "He has some very good statistics and will easily surpass my goals record in a Ligue 1 season (19 in 2003/2004). He is a fast, complete, very efficient player. We need players like him in Ligue 1." pic.twitter.com/ChFNVqDTrn— Bsadiq (@beesaadiq) March 16, 2019