Gareth Bale
Despite his goals for Real Madrid, Gareth Bale continues to be linked with a transfer to Manchester United. Reuters

While the January transfer window is now coming into sharp focus for many clubs, rumors continue to swirl about a big name signing Manchester United could make next summer. It is less than 18 months since Gareth Bale left Tottenham for Real Madrid, rejecting Manchester United in the process, in a deal that broke the all-time transfer record. Still, reports in England have suggested that he would welcome a move back to the Premier League and that United are prepared to pay a huge sum to make Old Trafford his destination.

The latest report comes from the Daily Express, which writes that Bale is aware of United’s interest in a possible £80 million transfer and that he is enthusiastic about the prospect. As their summer signings, and especially a club-record deal for Angel di Maria, suggested, there is a feeling that Manchester United are now prepared, and even eager, to spend big on attracting some of the world’s biggest-name players. Still, while his time at Real Madrid hasn’t always gone smoothly, it would be a major surprise were his time in the Spanish capital, following such a massive investment by the club, so quickly come to an end. Having scored in the finals of the Champions League and Copa del Rey last season, the 25-year-old was also on target as Real Madrid won the Club World Cup on Saturday. He has 12 goals in 21 appearances this season.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is likely to have more pressing thoughts about adding to his squad next month. Amid a continued stream of injuries, Van Gaal’s reign to date has been blighted by defensive issues and, despite a recent drop in the number of goals conceded, it is at the back where his priority in the transfer window is thought to lie.

Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels has been viewed by many outlets as the prime target for some time and is again featuring prominently among the transfer rumors. The latest talk has come after comments from the player himself, lamenting Dortmund’s poor start to the season that sees them go into the Bundesliga winter break in the relegation zone.

“We’ve managed pretty well at home in recent weeks, but not at all away,” he said, reports the Daily Mirror. “It’s pretty astonishing that we are so pathetic.”

The Mirror believes those comments have called the German World Cup winner’s future into question. Still, Hummels has repeatedly stated his commitment to Dortmund and insisted that he won’t be following the likes of Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski in leaving to become the latest big-name player to depart the club.

Another player to have been strongly linked with a transfer to Old Trafford is Roma’s Kevin Strootman. While Roma have been adamant that they won’t sell the Dutch midfielder, a report from ESPN last week suggested that United believed that they could get their man in January. According to a story in the Daily Express on Monday, United are now closing in on a £30 million deal. Strootman, 24, has only just returned after an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup.

Manchester United’s midfield targets do not end there, with the Daily Star continuing to report interest in Benfica’s Enzo Perez. The 28-year-old impressed for Argentina at the World Cup, but, with recent stories in Spain stating that there is strong interest from Valencia and that Benfica would hold out for his 30 million euros (£23.5 million) release clause, it would be s surprise transfer.