Atletico Madrid’s José María Giménez is widely considered as one of the best young centre-backs in the world. He is quick, strong, and dominant in the air. Physically, he has all the required tools a defender needs to thrive in England. And that is why it is not hard to see why Manchester United are ready to dish out £50m for his signature.
Giménez was only 17 when he made his senior debut in the Uruguayan league for Danubio in 2012. Atlético spotted his talent early and snapped him up for a paltry fee of €1m the following year. He looked up to Diego Godín, his national team captain, as his idol and progressed smoothly through Atlético’s youth ranks to cement regular first team action within just two years.
His burgeoning rise convinced Diego Simeone to sell João Miranda who has been one of his trusted defenders for the previous four years. At 19, he produced a stunning display against England in the 2014 World Cup and helped La Celeste dump The Three Lions out of the tournament, with Uruguay beating Roy Hodgson’s men 2-1.
His talent has never been in question, but doubts have surfaced over his temperament. The obvious incident that comes to mind is the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich where, for a brief period of time, he lost his concentration and was involved in some brainless defending, nearly costing his side the match. He needlessly hauled down Javi Martinez to concede a penalty. Luckily for him, Jan Oblak bailed him out that day but it came with a heavy consequence – Giménez lost the trust of his manager.
Former Manchester City defender, Stefan Savić, came on to replace him in the final against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Since then, the Montenegrin has been Godín‘s first choice partner at the club. With only two appearances this season, Giménez has dropped down the pecking order and he could be on his way out of the club next summer, should his situation remain unimproved.
In January, Giménez signed an improved deal that saw him getting an increased salary and a hike in the release clause, but more importantly, it tied him down to the club until 2018. With Atlético facing a FIFA transfer ban, they will be reticent to sell one of their prized assets who is entering the final 18 months of his deal. At the same time, he is unlikely to commit to a long-term future given his present situation, and may look to move elsewhere in search of regular first team football.
At just 21, Giménez has a wealth of experience under his belt. He has played in a World Cup, in Copa America, in the Champions League knockout stages, and has shown his class while defending against some of the world’s best players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He is an old school type defender who concentrates on the defensive side of a game, rather than distribution or creating from the back. In that respect, he is ideally suited to José Mourinho’s taste.
Giménez is a class player and any team would love to have him in the side. Atlético will be reluctant to lose a precocious talent like him, but they may consider the financial aspect if any big club comes up with a huge offer for the Uruguayan.
Moreover, the emergence of 20-year-old Lucas Hernández may convince Simeone to draft him into the senior squad which could further push Giménez out of the picture. Giménez’s price will continue to fall if he remains out of the team, and the closer he gets to becoming a free agent, the more United will feel confident of signing him.