Transfer News & Odds

Rasmus Hojlund transfer latest: Six things we know about the Man Utd target

By Ben Green

Six things we know about the Man Utd target copy

Published: 21:41, 3 July 2023

Erik ten Hag is in the market for a striker this summer, and there is one candidate who stands out above the rest.

Mason Mount is closing in on a move to Manchester United from Premier League rivals Chelsea, but the general consensus on Sir Matt Busby Way is that the club cannot go into the new season without a recognised centre-forward in the squad.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford can both play through the middle if needs be, but the former is far too inconsistent to hit the regular scoring heights of an out-and-out No. 9, while the latter prefers to play as an inside forward.

Following the departures of Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Man Utd were noticeably striker-less, prompting Ten Hag to sign Wout Weghorst on loan in January as a sort of temporary Band-Aid, remedying the centre-forward void to see out the campaign.

Long-term, though, Weghorst was never going to be the man to revolutionise Man Utd’s frontline, and so, attention swiftly turns to this summer’s market. The conventional wisdom is that Man Utd will sign a striker before September — but who?

Atalanta’s precocious sharp-shooter Rasmus Hojlund has emerged as a key target for the club following a breakthrough campaign in Serie A. This particular saga is generating serious traction, and we’ve had a look where we’re currently at.

Who is interested in Rasmus Hojlund?

The Dane’s meteoric rise has naturally caught the attention of Europe’s leading lights — Man Utd, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have all been credited with an interest in the 20-year-old. But, it’s the Old Trafford club who look to have the most concrete desire to snap him up.

As reported by The Athletic early last month, The Red Devils have opened initial talks with Atalanta. However, amid the backdrop of a takeover saga involving Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the pace at which Man Utd have done business thus far has been concerningly unhurried.

A month on from those reported discussions, and media outlets in Italy have suggested that Man Utd recently tried, and failed, with an opening offer to Atalanta. According to Corriere dello Sport, the Bergamo-based club rebuffed a £31m bid from Man Utd for the striker last week.

With Harry Kane seemingly priced out of a move to Old Trafford and Victor Osimhen likely to prove too expensive, Ten Hag is set to zero in his focus on Hojlund. If that is the case, then expect further bids to be lodged in the coming weeks for Atalanta’s most-prized asset.

How much could Hojlund cost?

According to The Athletic, Hojlund’s representative, SEG, spoke with Atalanta last month and were told that their client’s value would be set at £85.3m this summer. If that is the case, Man Utd’s reported £31m bid is some £54.3m below the asking price — no wonder Atalanta rejected it outright.

However, there are also suggestions that Atalanta would be willing to sanction a transfer for around £40m, which may explain why Man Utd haven’t bolted just yet — and remain in discussions with the Italian club over a potential move. Given he joined Atalanta only last summer, you can understand Atalanta’s reluctance to part company so soon.

When does Hojlund’s contract run out?

As mentioned, Hojlund only joined Atalanta last summer from Sturm Graz, so he has plenty of time left on his current deal. That contract runs until 2027, so Atalanta have plenty of power in dictating the terms of any prospective deal with willing buyers.

What has Hojlund said?

Given the links between himself and Man Utd, journalists have naturally been posing questions to him about his future, but he’s remained decidedly coy. When asked about reported interest from Man Utd last month, Hojlund said “we will have to wait and see” what happens.

Speaking to Tipsbladet on Man Utd links, he said: “It is a huge club, so I must have done something right if it’s rumoured they want me. We have to see what happens.

“As you see and hear, I imagine a lot could happen to quite a few strikers this summer, as many clubs are looking for a No. 9. Something will definitely happen there, and then we’ll have to wait and see if I am included in it.

“I am very happy to be with Atalanta and we have qualified for Europe. I have found myself in a really good place here, so now we will have to wait and see.”

What have Atalanta said?

Although Atalanta haven’t been shouting from the rooftops about Hojlund, manager Gian Piero Gasperini did reveal earlier this year that a dip in form by the young striker could have been the result of the swirling “rumours” surrounding his future.

Gasperini told Tuttosport in May: “The qualities are all there, at the beginning we had to get to know him but he immediately stood out for his great will to break through.

“He did very well after the first [part of the season], then he was called up to the national team and too many rumours distracted him, then there was the [abductor] injury.”

How could Atalanta replace Hojlund?

A fresh-faced Scandinavian with blonde hair who came to prominence in Austria and has an explosive left boot — where does that sound familiar? Indeed, it would seem Hojlund’s resemblance to Erling Haaland is more than just a lazy comparison. That’s if you trust Gasperini’s judgement, at least.

“He has very similar characteristics to (Erling) Haaland, not just his face,” Gasperini recently commented. “He is so quick, he’s under 11 seconds over 100m and that’s not even trying very hard. Considering his height, he has a low centre of gravity and can move his legs very fast.”

A cut-throat, final-third assassin, the 20-year-old registered a non-penalty expected goals rate of 8.25 last season, the third-best return of any U21 striker in Europe’s top five leagues. It would seem Man Utd are looking to sign Halaand 2.0 to rival the real deal across the road.

But, how on earth could Atalanta replace him if a Man Utd move materialises? Well, there are players with a similar profile. One of those is Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, another left-footed forward who stands at over 6ft. He will be on the market for a cut-price following The Foxes relegation, and Atalanta could exploit that.

Santiago Gimenez is another player to consider. He recently shone in his maiden European campaign with Feyenoord, bagging 23 goals in all competitions as Arne Slot’s men famously secured the Eredivisie title. At 22, he has the age profile to fit Atalanta’s model and the weaponised left boot to match Hojlund.

One non-left footed striker who could fit the brief comes in the guise of Vangelis Pavlidis, who helped AZ reach the Europa Conference League semi-finals with his 22 goals across all competitions in 2022/23. Simon Banza was equally as impressive for Braga, while Niclas Fullkrug has really started to flourish in the latter stages of his career for Werder Bremen, becoming a recent star at international level for Germany.

Sporting’s teenage sensation Youssef Chermiti could be an interesting option following a breakthrough season in Lisbon, where he made 21 appearances across all competitions. The 19-year-old stands at an impressive 6ft 4in, but is exceptionally nimble with his feet.