By all accounts, Juventus and Real Madrid are the two clubs fighting over Paul Pogba’s signature this summer.
Manchester United are reportedly keen to keep hold of the midfielder, but Pogba has suggested he may seek a new challenge after spending the last three years at Old Trafford.
Despite appearing inconsistent on the surface, Pogba was United’s standout performer from a statistical standpoint last season and losing him would undeniably reduce the squad’s overall level of quality. With that in mind, Ole Gunner Solskjaer will be looking to spend the money the club receives for Pogba – if they do decide to sell – wisely by bringing in some appropriate replacements.
One way to do that would be to ask Juventus or Real Madrid for players in exchange. United apparently value Pogba at £150 million, so feasibly, they might tempt his suitors into accepting cash-plus-player deals.
Solskjaer knows he must improve his squad to challenge for the top four next season, regardless of Pogba’s future. United’s current lack of Champions League football is an obvious stumbling block in terms of attracting big names, but the club’s stature remains alluring.
So, who are the Juventus and Real Madrid stars the Red Devils should be targeting? We’ve picked out a few.
David De Gea’s future at Manchester United continues to be a source of uncertainty. The Spaniard, who has one year left on his contract, struggled last season and has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain of late; perhaps even Madrid will revive their past interest. Regardless, United may be looking to refresh between the sticks and Thibaut Courtois provides them with an option to do exactly that.
The Belgian thrived in the Premier League at Chelsea but has flattered to deceive since making the switch to the Bernabeu last summer. Swapping clubs with Pogba offers Courtois the chance to return to England, where he kept 19 clean sheets in his final season compared to just 10 during his first year at Madrid.
In reality, though, this deal would only happen if De Gea departed this summer and it’s unlikely United will want to lose both De Gea and Pogba in the same window.
First things first: Joao Cancelo is being strongly linked with a move to Manchester City. The chance to work with Pep Guardiola and be part of a team that has just won a domestic treble will prove tough to turn down for the right-back, and it will be difficult for any other club to convince Cancelo to reject a move to the Etihad. That said, United should at least make an attempt.
Cancelo, 25, will have to compete with Kyle Walker for a place in City’s starting line-up. Walker has just signed a new long-term contract and he won’t be easily displaced. Meanwhile, at United, Cancelo would surely be the team’s first-choice right-back ahead of Matteo Darmian, who has been linked with Juventus, and Ashley Young.
In 2018/19, Cancelo provided five assists in 25 Serie A appearances. The Portugal international would add attacking thrust to United’s right side. It’s just a matter of convincing him to ignore the call of the noisy neighbours.
United are less desperate on the opposite flank with Luke Shaw having nailed down a starting spot at left-back. However, competition for Shaw is clearly needed after the former Southampton defender endured a difficult run-in last season – as did most of his teammates. Alex Sandro, a player who has been mooted as a United target in the past, would be ideal.
The Brazilian has four years left on his current contract but United could bypass having to pay a large fee by including him in a deal for Pogba. When the Guardian first broke the news of Juventus’ interest in re-signing Pogba, Alex Sandro was mentioned as a potential makeweight, so there does seem to be some momentum behind the chances of this one happening.
We’re now getting into the territory of directly replacing Pogba with another central midfielder. The Frenchman’s exit will leave a void in the team that needs filling. Real Madrid are reportedly willing to offer Dani Ceballos to Tottenham in exchange for Christian Eriksen, so the same logic can be applied to their pursuit of Pogba.
According to reports, Ceballos has told Zidane he wants to leave the Bernabeu in search of more regular first-team football elsewhere. And with Pogba and Herrera on their way out of United, Ceballos may be able to step into the breach. The 22-year-old wouldn’t be an elite replacement, but he’d be a capable stop-gap and a decent squad option while the Red Devils search for their next superstar.
Ceballos is worth less than United’s other options, too, meaning Ed Woodward could attempt to include an additional player in the deal.
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Isco has endured a turbulent time at Madrid, playing brilliantly at times while also spending long spells out of the team. He scored just six goals in 36 appearances across all competitions last season, providing only one assist, which is remarkable for a player who possesses creativity in spades. Perhaps all Isco needs is a fresh start at a new club – Manchester United would be mad to ignore the opportunity.
A major thing Solskjaer lacks, especially if Pogba leaves, is a player to transition between midfield and attack in central areas. As such, Isco would walk into the starting line-up and, if he rediscovers his best form, could become United’s new talisman. The 27-year-old only played 251 minutes of Champions League football last season; a move to Old Trafford could depend on how much he wants that to increase.
As we’ve already alluded to, the exits of Pogba and Herrera will rid United of much of their experience in midfield. Solskjaer may want to bring in an older head to make up for that, and Blaise Matuidi would do all of that and more. The 32-year-old is a serial winner at club level and became a World Cup champion with France last summer.
Matuidi has just a year left on his current contract and talks over a new deal have been dragging on for some time. The former PSG man recently revealed those discussions are progressing, but his future remains unclear while they continue. He can play in central midfield or slightly further forward towards the left, and that versatility could add another element to United’s line-up.
Reports in Italy suggest Juventus are considering using Douglas Costa as a makeweight in a deal for Pogba, as did the original Guardian story previously mentioned. The uninspiring performances of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial during the latter stages of last season suggest United are in need of a new wing-forward to reinvigorate their attack.
“I have three years left on my contract and I’m certain that I will stay in Turin,” Costa said this week amid speculation linking him with PSG. But as we know, it isn’t always the player’s decision. If sending the Brazilian to United is the only way to get Pogba, then it could well happen. Costa will have to consider his options carefully in the coming weeks.
The 28-year-old was left out of Brazil’s Copa America squad; moving to Old Trafford may present an opportunity for him to win his place back for his country.
It’s safe to say Marco Asensio had a quiet 2018/19. The 23-year-old, once and possibly still considered a future talisman for club and country, scored just one goal 30 La Liga appearances for Madrid. He bagged six goals across all competitions but his chances of building on that next season have been hindered by the arrival of Eden Hazard at the Bernabeu.
Hazard is yet another attacker Asensio will have to battle for a starting spot in 2019/20. Indeed, leaving may be his best course of action if he is to fulfil his potential. He can play on either flank and drift into the middle, which will appeal to Solskjaer’s need for more flair and quality in the final third.
Paulo Dybala scored 10 goals across all competitions last season, by far his lowest tally in a Juventus shirt. Part of that is down to the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, who Max Allegri used centrally, pushing Dybala either out wide or out of the team altogether. New Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri also usually sets up with one up front, so Dybala’s minutes in his preferred position might not improve.
The Argentinian is still considered a serious talent. At 25, he is no longer a blossoming youngster; it’s now time for him to prove he is among the elite. With United’s signing of Alexis Sanchez failing to work out, the Red Devils will be keen to recruit a gifted attacker who can win games on his own. Dybala had been exactly that before Ronaldo turned up at the Allianz Stadium.
It would be quite the statement if United lured Dybala to Old Trafford, regardless of his indifferent form in 2018/19.
Realistically, United will be looking for a deal that mostly consists of cash. But it’s interesting to conceive a transfer in which multiple players are exchanged.
The £150m valuation of Pogba opens up the possibility of United taking £150m worth of players from Real Madrid or Juventus.
Using the market values attributed to players by Transfermarkt, we’ve come up with four £15om shopping lists United may have written up, one for Real Madrid players and one for Juventus.
Here are the player values:
Thibaut Courtois (£49m)
Dani Ceballos (£26.5m)
Marco Asensio (£53.5m)
Alex Sandro (£40.5m)
Joao Cancelo (£49.5m)
Blaise Matuidi (£19.8m)
Douglas Costa (£34.2)
Paulo Dybala (£68.2m)
We’ve rounded the deals up to £150m with the leftover cash.
Vote for the deal you think is best for Man United below.