A new three-man shortlist has been drawn up by Manchester United as they aim to strengthen their centre-back roster, according to Sky Sports.
United have seen both Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo leave over the past nine months and Phil Jones’ long-term injury leaves it unclear as to whether he will play again for the club.
And despite having some excellent academy prospects, including Teden Mengi and Will Fish, the absences leave manager ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe as his only experienced options at the heart of the defence.
United have been linked with almost every talented centre-back in the world over recent months but Sky yesterday put two new names at the centre of the story: Juventus’ Cristian Romero and Lille’s Sven Botman.
Romero, 23, has enjoyed an excellent season on loan at Atalanta who ‘are expected to pay up to £21.5m (€25m) in their obligation to buy him permanently from Juve – but they are said to be willing to sell him on again for a fee at least in the region of £34m (€40m),’ Sky reports.
The short report from Sky does not even give any background to their claim that Botman is on United’s list. One thing the Dutchman offers Solskjaer that the Argentinian does not is that he is left-footed – something that the manager reportedly has high on his list of priorities. And whilst Romero’s pace and aggression could make him an interesting counterfoil to Harry Maguire, Botman offers a different style of centre back. The Dutchman is in the Virgil van Dijk mould, tall, commanding and comfortable on the ball. However, at 21, he may be considered one for the future rather than a ready-made first team player.
The third name on Sky’s list is Sevilla’s Jules Koundé. The Frenchman has been linked with the Reds consistently over recent months but it has been widely reported that Sevilla will not sell him for anything less than his release clause, which is said to be €80 million (£70m). If true, it does not seem like a deal that would represent good value for money.
Sky make no mention in the report of other centre backs that have been heavily linked with United recently. Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, the Rolls Royce option, still has not reached a deal to extend his contract and is reported to be keen on a Premier League move. Given his contract status and Real’s desire to raise funds to buy Kylian Mbappe, the 28-year-old could be a genuine contender.
Villareal’s Pau Torres and Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic have also both been widely reported to be on the shortlist with the latter also capable of providing right-back cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.