On the heels of manager Louis van Gaal’s cryptic words over a major signing, there appears to be no shortage of star power in regards to Manchester United’s transfer pursuits. In need of a splash move as the club tries to capitalize on its return to Champions League contention, Van Gaal said United were “close” to landing a top striker. He’s since backtracked on those words, but the message has now linked one of the world’s biggest stars to Old Trafford.
Almost immediately after Van Gaal made his statement, speculation began to ramp up around Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish talisman didn’t exactly turn back the speculation after PSG beat Fiorentina in the International Champions Cup Tuesday.
"Should I stay in Paris? My future is in the hands of [agent] Mino Raiola," Ibrahimovic said to Sky Italia.
The 33-year-old’s touched every top league in Europe and proven victorious in each, but has never ventured to the Premier League. He’s totaled 106 goals in 126 appearances at Parc des Princes over the last three years, and Ibrahimovic certainly has the size to take on the more physical Premier League defenders. But PSG have dealt with reports of an Ibrahimovic transfer for more than a year, and the Ligue 1 side has largely downplayed the speculation.
However, PSG’s apparent interest in United midfielder Angel Di Maria could be the common ground that brings two of Europe’s top clubs to the negotiating table. French publication RMC reports PSG is prepared to offer United £45 million for the Argentine, including bonuses. The club also plans to give the 27-year-old a four-year contract worth an estimated £134,000-per week wage.
For United, sending Di Maria away after one year of service could be an embarrassing turn of fortune. Yet PSG’s sizeable fee would largely account for the £59.7 million United gave to Real Madrid last summer for Di Maria, and perhaps the two sides could also include Ibrahimovic to sweeten the deal.
Another option that seems more likely and less expensive for Van Gaal involves Barcelona forward Pedro. Daily Telegraph reports Catalans manager Luis Enrique admits the club won't able to stop United or any club from activating the 27-year-old’s £22 million release clause.
“Pedro? If he wants to go, a club will have to meet his release clause,” Enrique said. “I have talked with Pedro to discuss his situation. I have told him how I think about it and he told me how he feels about it, but I obviously won't reveal the exact content of the conversation we had.”
Pedro’s spent his entire career with the Spanish Primera titans, but with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar all ahead of him, playing time has become all the more scarce over the last two years. United gives Pedro the opportunity to start and compete for the world’s top trophies, which could be why he’s stayed silent over the transfer speculation.
Van Gaal’s potential moves have also involved the back line, but its unclear just how close the club might be to landing Real Madrid center back Sergio Ramos. According to Manchester Evening News, Madrid president Florentino Perez intends to sit down with Ramos and discuss his desires to leave the Bernabeu.
Perez has maintained that the 29-year-old Ramos isn’t for sale, and has already turned away United’s first bid of £28 million. And Perez could even hold out for a record £65 million for Ramos so as to scare United away. But Ramos took some of Madrid’s leverage away when he said he desired an exit.
The Evening News also hinted that the addition of Ramos could lead United to part with goalkeeper David de Gea, should Madrid continue to pursue the Spanish shot-blocker. United have refused to budge from their £32 million price tag on De Gea, but if Ramos is included maybe that number is scaled back to something more reasonable.