Bayern Munich shocked everyone, and especially the Manchester United fans, earlier this week when they announced the signing of Renato Sanches from Benfica. It was unexpected and the announcement of the deal almost came out of the blue.
Manchester United were thought to be heavily interested in the 18-year-old midfielder and scouts have had watched him on several occasions this season. In fact, the Red Devils were even prepared to meet the player’s asking price thought to be somewhere in between €35m-€60m, depending on what source you choose to believe.
Sanches is a typical box-to-box midfielder who is always willing to drive his team forward from central positions. He is a tireless runner, has bundles of energy and his work rate is simply admirable. The Portuguese teenager would have been perfect United.
What baffles here is why United pulled the plug on the deal all of a sudden? While United were pretty impressed with Sanches’ development at Benfica, probably they felt the price was too much given his age, and passed on the opportunity to sign him.
With Sanches now off the radar who should United target next?
Saul Niguez (21 years)
The Spanish youngster is a versatile midfielder who can play in a number of positions across the pitch. Primarily a central midfielder, Saul can play on the right and left side of midfield, as a deep lying midfielder or in the attacking no 10 behind the striker. He has been ever present (44 games so far) in Diego Simeone’s side this season and has scored nine goals and further assisted four in all competitions.
Saul is very good at defensive contributions: he loves to tackle (manages 3.1 tackles per game on average), reads the game well and makes a lot of key interceptions. He is equally comfortable with the ball at his feet and has a good dribbling skill. He has scored some important goals for Atletico this season, including a solo effort against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.
Manchester United were thought to be interested in him during the January transfer window, and may try their luck again this summer. But will they get him? The chances are very slim. Saul is not too keen to leave the club, and Atletico do not want to sell him either. In fact, the Rojiblancos are planning to tie him down with a lucrative contract very shortly.
The Italian would be a perfect like for like replacement for Michael Carrick. The 34-year-old England international is slowly approaching the twilight of his career and this could be his last season at Old Trafford, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
Verratti is a wonderful passer who likes to dictate the tempo of the game from midfield. With an average of 1.7 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions in Ligue 1, he is equally capable of putting in defensive shifts. But where he is most effective is in controlling the game from midfield and sprinkling passes around. Like Barcelona’s Xavi, the Italian hardly gives the ball away cheaply which is why the Catalan giants are so keen to bring him at Camp Nou.
The Italian international is injured at the moment and will miss the Euro Championships in France. Do United have a chance of signing him this summer? Probably not.
Andre Gomes (22 years)
The Valencia star is a different type of player to Sanches – he is more of an attacking type and less a dictator of play. He is a brilliant dribbler and his distribution from the midfield could be very effective.
According to reports in Spain, Manchester United are seemingly interested in signing the former Benfica midfielder, but the Red Devils need to move quickly, as Juventus are also interested in him.