Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Louis van Gaal wants Juventus midfielder to join Angel Di Maria in £34m deal
However, club have doubts over Chilean's recovery from knee injury while former Manchester City enforcer De Jong is not likely to arrive as a back-up
The Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is Manchester United’s top midfield target but the club’s concerns about his fitness are so great that it may require a complex, appearance-based contract if he is to follow Angel Di Maria into Louis van Gaal’s squad, taking the two-year transfer spend at Old Trafford crashing through the £200m barrier.
After a summer in which United have persistently felt that Juventus have been seeking to manufacture a market for the Chilean – with a £34m asking price they have always considered too high – the desperate need for midfield protection has led to a softening of their tone where the prospect of doing business with the Turin club is concerned.
But the player’s troublesome right knee is a cause of serious concern, with United acutely aware that the 27-year-old has not started a Serie A game for the Turin side since the 2-0 defeat at Napoli on 30 March – and that he was subsequently asked to play four times, late last season, before the knee was operated on. Juventus needed Vidal as they fought to win last season’s title and to progress in the Europa League.
The player underwent a rapid operation in May to repair his meniscus before the World Cup and was obviously never fully fit in Brazil, where he could not complete any of the three games he played. Universidad de Chile’s team doctor, Alejandro Orizola, described the operation that patched him up for the World Cup as “a hasty procedure” and claimed that “it would always bring with it a regression in his final recovery”.
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The substantial concerns about the injury could feasibly lead United to seek a highly incentivised appearance-based contract of the type Michael Owen signed when joining United in 2011. It seems unlikely that United would be willing to pay anywhere near the €40m (£31.8m) asking price for a player who represents such a physical risk.
Read more: Angel Di Maria undergoes medical
Despite the doubts, Vidal was name-checked twice by Van Gaal in his post-match press conference at Sunderland – which seemed significant. United would certainly want to put him through the most vigorous medical at their Carrington training facility – which is equipped with the technology to predict the likelihood of a player breaking down.
The indication from Old Trafford – where Di Maria is expected to be announced as a United player for a fee of around £60m on Tuesday – is that Milan’s Nigel de Jong will not be joining the club as a back-up option for Vidal. If Van Gaal is to be reunited with the former Manchester City enforcer who was a part of his World Cup squad he will clearly have to overturn the club’s decision.
Di Maria arrives at Manchester United's Carrington training ground on Monday night
De Jong’s absence from the Milan team for the weekend’s Italian pre-season TIM Trophy has been seen in that country as an indicator that the Dutchman may be on his way. De Jong’s desire to return to the Premier League to play for his former Netherlands manager means that Van Gaal knows it would be an easy deal to do this week if he seeks a late change of heart from the club. An 11th-hour move for Ajax defender Daley Blind, also from his Dutch squad, is thought be achievable for the same reasons.
Daley Blind at the World Cup
Any Vidal deal is complicated by the fact that Nani’s departure on loan to Sporting Lisbon has removed from the landscape a player the Italians would have been willing to take. Vidal is thought to be willing to leave Italy. Juventus’s apparent willingness to sell Vidal all summer has demonstrated the changed environment for the player, who was previous manager Antonio Conte’s main man and whose attachment to the club has weakened with the arrival of Massimiliano Allegri, when Conte departed in July and was appointed Italy manager.
Another available midfielder, Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso, is of no interest to United, despite suggestions to the contrary in Spain – where his future looks uncertain after the arrival of Toni Kroos. Suggestions of Sami Khedira’s departure from the Bernabeu for United are also wide of the mark.
United hope to register Di Maria by Friday so he is available at the weekend.
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