Manchester United linked with Jan Oblak and David de Gea swap deal

by Scott Eckersley

Manchester United are considering an ambitious move for Atletico Madrid stopper Jan Oblak, as they look for a solution to their problem goalkeeper spot according to reports.

The Rojiblancos reportedly value Oblak at around £70m, but former Atletico man David de Gea could reduce the outlay considerably by moving in the opposite direction.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spent the latter stages of the season rotating De Gea and Dean Henderson, in the hope that one of the keepers would make the position their own. However, both players fluffed their auditions, leading to reports that Solskjaer is now in the market for a long-term resolution.

Just this week, the club signed journeyman former United youth player Tom Heaton on a free transfer. However, it’s widely expected that Heaton will come in as an experienced backup, rather than be considered for first team action.

Oblak is widely-regarded as one of the best keepers in the world. The Slovenia captain has just enjoyed another stellar season with title-winning Atletico, conceding a measly 25 goals in 38 games.

In those 38 games, he kept an impressive 18 clean sheets – making him the most frugal keeper in La Liga.

Dominant aerially and a supreme athlete to boot, Oblak is considered to be one of the most well-rounded keepers in the game. While he’s known to have good footwork and excellent command of his box, it’s his shot-stopping that really catches the eye.

Last season Oblak was in typically fine form, saving an incredible 80% of shots on target. His ability from the spot – especially pertinent right now – is just as impressive, with the keeper having saved a stunning 66% of penalties faced.

There’s no doubt Oblak would be a fantastic – and vital – addition to the side. All great teams are built on the foundation of a reliable keeper and United haven’t had that since De Gea’s decline started a couple of years ago.

However, there are a lot of questions to ask before a move like this starts to seem credible.

Firstly, would United’s budget even allow for a keeper of Oblak’s stature? It’s fairly common knowledge that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to strengthen in key outfield positions. Given a reported war chest of £150 million, a lot would depend on how much De Gea is valued at in the deal.

Next, could Atletico afford De Gea’s wages? The Spaniard is one of the highest-earning members in the squad and would surely need to take a huge reduction to fit into Atletico’s rigid pay structure.

It remains to be seen whether a return back to Madrid would hold enough sentimental allure to convince him to make such a sizeable financial sacrifice.

Finally, would Oblak himself push for the move? As we’ve established, Atletico are not known to be big-payers, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Thomas Partey having moved in recent times.

The fact that a player like Partey was happy to trade Champions League football with Atletico for a Europa League run at Arsenal shows that even their best players are attainable.

Finding a new Goalkeeper is a headache Solskjaer would surely prefer not to have but cannot avoid. And yet, if a bid for Oblak is possible – and it doesn’t hinder the other problem positions – it could end up being the most important signing of the summer.

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