Two frontrunners are beginning to emerge as Manchester United’s hunt for a new centre-back gathers pace.
Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo have already left the club and long-term absentee Phil jones is also expected to leave, with Eric Bailly also unable so far to reach agreement over a new contract.
This would leave Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe as the only senior centre backs at the club.
A number of names have been bandied about in the press. Many column inches were devoted to RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, who since signed a pre-contract agreement with Bayern Munich. Sevilla’s Jules Koundé and Villareal’s Paul Torres then appeared to move to the top of the list.
However, Sevilla are reportedly demanding in the region of £75 million for Koundé and Torres is arguably too similar in style to Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to provide the kind of counterfoil that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would want.
And with that being the case, according to The Sun and The Mirror, respectively, it now appears to be Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane that are being hotly pursued by United’s director of football, John Murtough.
Varane is the Rolls Royce option and The Mirror claims that talks between the two clubs are progressing well as the Frenchman moves into the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu with no agreement to renew.
Reports have claimed that the 27-year-old is seeking a new challenge elsewhere and los Blancos’ financial situation means they will be much more receptive to offers than they had been previously.
The Mirror cites El Chiringuito TV as claiming that United are ‘in very advanced talks’ over a possible deal.
The Sun, meanwhile, claim that United ‘are ready to step up’ their pursuit of the Serbian, Milenkovic.
He too is entering the last year of his contract and is unwilling to sign a new one, putting a number of big clubs, including United, Chelsea and AC Milan, on alert.
The asking price for the 23-year-old is said to be around £38 million but Fiorentina will need to be more realistic if they want to avoid losing him for nothing 12 months later.
Logic suggests that Varane will be ‘Plan A’ for United if a sub £50 million figure can be agreed, with Milenkovic Plan B at somewhere around the £25-£30 million mark.
One advantage of Milenkovic is that he is also adept at right back and could therefore provide cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. It could therefore be that if both Eric Bailly and Diogo Dalot, who is on loan at AC Milan, both move on this summer, United could move for both Varane and Milenkovic, which would provide a massive upgrade to the defensive options that are currently available.