Manchester United are targeting Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez again after losing out on Jadon Sancho, according to The Daily Star.
The 25-year-old is considered to be one of the world’s best midfielders and has long been coveted by the Red Devils. The Star claims an offer was made for the player last summer.
However, his nine-year contract, which has a €150 million (£135m) release clause, has made him untouchable in the transfer market to date.
‘But Old Trafford bosses believe Atletico’s shock exit from the Champions League at the hands of RB Leipzig will boost their chances of luring Niguez to Manchester,’ The Star claims.
‘Niguez … is believed to be considering his future at the Spanish outfit.
‘[He] has become disillusioned at Atletico.’
Niguez also refused to rule out a move away from Atleti in a June interview, saying ‘People say, “come out and deny it”, but then if you deny it and something happens, you look bad.
‘I just stick to playing football and what has to happen will happen’.
There were strong rumours earlier in the year that Niguez had been lined up by United as a replacement for Paul Pogba if he were to leave for Real Madrid or Juventus, as was expected at the time. However, as it emerged that Pogba was likely to stay at Old Trafford, the rumours died down.
There are two interesting issues associated with United’s interest in Saul. The first is that whilst predominantly a central midfielder, the Spaniard can also play on the right – he has done so 64 times for Atleti – and so could be seen as a Sancho alternative, albeit far less of a traditional winger.
The second issue is the player’s complicated ownership, which could work in United’s favour. A consortium called Quality Football, led by superagent Jorge Mendes and former United CEO Peter Kenyon, have a 40% stake in Niguez and the terms of the agreement stipulate that Atletico would be required to give the consortium nearly half of any amount bid for him whether the deal went ahead or not.
This would mean, for example, that the Rojiblancos would have to fork out £28 million to Mendes and Kenyon if they turned down a £70 million offer from the Red Devils.
Atleti have financial problems and have told Diego Simeone that he needs to sell before he can buy and Kenyon and Mendes might believe that as Niguez turns 26 in a couple of months it is the optimum time to cash in on their investment and move him along.
The Daily Star believes that United are ready to offer the player a £150,000 per week contract and that ‘the prospect of playing alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes appeals to him.’
It is therefore certainly one to watch as bleary-eyed United bosses come to terms with life the morning after months of playing Sancho poker into the wee small hours.