On Tuesday night Manchester United announced the arrival of Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid for a British record £59.7m.
Critics have said the club have overpaid for the Argentine winger, but given the desperate state of United’s squad they had to move for a truly world class player. Real Madrid knew they were desperate and squeezed out every last penny Old Trafford bosses were willing to pay.
That said it is still an eye-watering amount of money for a player who has never scored more than seven goals in a league season.
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Here is a hypothetical team, playing in Louis van Gaal’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, that Manchester United could have bought (for £58.5m) this summer; there’s even enough room for seven subs and we’ve managed to spend £16m on a certain troubled but talented striker…
GK – Pepe Reina (Liverpool to Bayern Munich - £2m)
Suffered a dip in form at the end of his Liverpool career but was rejuvenated at Napoli under Rafael Benitez last season. United don’t even need a goalkeeper but we had to fill our XI.
CB – Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon to Spurs - £4m)
Has made an astonishing start to life in north London with two goals in two games while looking a completely assured presence despite his tender years. The 20-year-old is physically strong and comfortable on the ball; expect an England nod soon.
CB – Calum Chambers (Southampton to Arsenal - £12m)
Another youngster who has fitted into life at the top of the Premier League seamlessly, Chambers has shown a cool head in his early Arsenal career. Also has the versatility to play at right-back or wing-back.
CB – Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United to Inter Milan – Free)
Manchester United’s current problems at the back are self-inflicted. Somehow they allowed their captain, one of the best defenders English football has seen in the modern generation and a man who has won it all, to leave. His experienced head would have brought a calming influence to the likes of Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane.
LWB – Ashley Cole (Chelsea to Roma - £1.5m)
Left for a new experience and culture, Cole remains one of the world’s best left-backs. Despite being out of the team for a long time at Chelsea last season, proved his quality with two superb performances in the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. Knows how to win as well.
RWB – Daryl Janmaat (Feyernoord to Newcastle - £5m)
A player Louis van Gaal knows well, Janmaat played at wing-back for the Netherlands in the World Cup. Possesses a great engine, is good on the ball and comfortable playing in a number of positions.
CM – Gareth Barry (Manchester City to Everton – Free)
His legs may have gone but possesses absolutely superb quality on the ball. Has seen all there is to see in the Premier League.
CM - Fernando (Porto to Manchester City - £12m)
The kind of defensive destroyer United have been missing for a number of years, Fernando has given two assured performances against Newcastle and Liverpool this season. Keeping Fernandinho out of the City team at the moment which is no small feat.
CM – Jake Livermore (Spurs to Hull City - £6m)
Provides the legs in this midfield, we could have gone for Jack Rodwell (who cost £1m more) but his lack of game time recently meant we went for the man who helped inspire Hull to an FA Cup final while on loan last season
ST – Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea to Everton – Free)
Another wise old head with proven quality, Eto’o may have lost his athletic gifts but he still has an eye for goal. Scored 12 for the Blues last season and was their first choice for a period before getting injured.
ST – Mario Balotelli (AC Milan to Liverpool - £16m)
A mecurial talent, Balotelli has his troublemaker reputation but 30 goals in 54 games for Milan prove he has the quality in front of goal. He could either be a revelation or a complete bust for Liverpool this season.
Bacary Sagna (Arsenal to Manchester City – Free)
Another versatile defender, capable of paying in the middle or as a full-back, Sagna adds valuable experience.
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United to Queens Park Rangers – Free)
See: Vidic, Nemanja.
Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal to Swansea City – Free)
Was superb in Arsenal’s triumphant FA Cup run and has started life at Swansea very well, playing superbly as Garry Monk’s men have won both their matches.
Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon to Swansea – Free)
Has been reduced to cameo appearances in Wales so far but Gomis has goalscoring quality, with at least 20 goals in each of the last three seasons for Lyon.
Tom Ince (Crystal Palace to Hull City – Free)
A bit of a reclamation project, Ince has the quality but struggled last season. He could be back to his best under Steve Bruce, who will give him every chance.
Victor Moses (Chelsea to Stoke City – Loan)
Barely played for Liverpool last season but Moses showed in the World Cup that he has the quality, pace and power to thrive in the Premier League.
Jack Colback (Sunderland to Newcastle - Free)
Alan Pardew made a real coup in stealing the energetic midfielder from Newcastle’s huge rivals. Is a team-first player and excellent on the ball.
So would you take Di Maria or all this lot for £59.7m? Let us know in the comments below.
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