David De Gea, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba – what do they all have in common? All have been linked with a move away from Manchester United this season. With United out of the Champions League and their stars coming under a lot of criticism for their sub-par performances last season, some players are ready to jump ship.
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It is strange, to say the least, to see Pogba and Lukaku come out saying openly in public that they want out when you would expect them to stay on and prove they are indeed top players, not just the overpaid, slightly above average footballers fans and pundits are starting to identify them as.
At least De Gea has had the decency to keep it quiet and when asked about his future during the season, the Spanish goalkeeper maintained he was happy at Old Trafford and that contract renewal talk should be postponed till the end of the season so they do not take precedence over results. Furthermore, De Gea has given many years to the club and is one of the rare players to have won a Premier League title under Sir Alex.
Ander Herrera has already left, apparently offended United took too long to give him a new contract. It also seemed like he was waiting to see if United would qualify for the Champions League before deciding to sign the contract he was offered. As soon as Champions League qualification was out of the window, he announced he was leaving.
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Pogba and De Gea, on the other hand, are instrumental for United. You could argue losing Lukaku would not disrupt the attack at United. Rashford, Martial and Sanchez, backed by soon-to-be academy graduate Greenwood and new signing Daniel James, can provide a solid attack, one with technical ability, which Lukaku lacks, and plenty of pace.
Lukaku and Pogba have two years left on their contracts so United do not have to sell them. Moreover, United’s finances have never been better. There is no need for money. What do you do in that type of situation? You bleed the vultures dry.
Daniel Levy, chairman of fellow top six team Spurs, is renowned for playing hardball in the transfer window. From the sale of Modric and Bale to Madrid to keeping Danny Rose and Eric Dier out of Mourinho’s hands while he was at United, Levy has shown how any club which aspires to progress should handle a situation where clubs who are in a better shape come for your stars.
The rule of thumb has been: keep playing hardball long enough for the players to be left with no choice but to stay. They will perform since no player wants to be on the bench for a whole season, especially if a big tournament is coming up for their country next year (Lukaku and Pogba will both want to feature at Euro 2020). If they do decide to leave and the club decide they can part with that player, then ask for an exorbitant price.
United have no need to sell Lukaku. He can be a good option when playing against teams who play a physical game. With his size and strength, he provides attributes no other Manchester United attackers do. If United play hardball and ask Inter Milan for 90 million euros or 30 million plus a defender like Skriniar, the Italians will retreat and instead go for a more affordable target, like Roma’s Edin Dzeko.
Concerning Paul Pogba, United can even ask for more, especially if it’s Real Madrid the interested party: 150 – 200 million pounds or a lesser fee with a player like Modric or Kovacic coming the other way to fill Pogba’s role at the club. Let’s not forget Pogba is a world cup winner and that adds a premium to the transfer fee he commands.
If any potential buyers do not want to pay up, then United can keep their stars at the club one more season to ease the burden of the rebuild Solskjaer is starting. Then, if they refuse to sign a new contract, they can be sold when there’s only one year left on their contracts.
As for David De Gea, he has been a humble servant at Old Trafford, through thick and thin and only has one year left on his contract now. If he chooses to leave, United should allow it and make the most of the transfer. 60-80 million euros, which can then be re-invested in Jan Oblak, who rumor has it no longer has faith in the project he was sold at Atletico. The Slovenian is younger and as talented as De Gea.
United’s situation would not look so dire with a new right-back and top center back. If they manage to keep Pogba, Lukaku and De Gea (or bring in Oblak) on top of that, they could very well challenge for the Premier League and win one or more of the cup competitions next year.
This will be hard to hear for United fans but it’s time to mimic Tottenham Hotspurs, and especially Daniel Levy.
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