Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s respective bans from signing players in the next two transfer windows will have major ramifications on Europe’s top clubs and the market as a whole.
The ban on the two clubs was administered by Fifa for “breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18”. It will come into effect for the 2016 summer and 2017 winter windows.
There are few who will be affected more than Manchester United who have been linked with players from both Madrid clubs, as well as others that Real and Atletico are interested in. Then, there is the small matter of their Spanish goalkeeper, who would be playing in his homeland if it were not for a faulty fax machine.
So, player-by-player, transfer target by transfer target, how could this affect Manchester United?
Manchester United: Players linked with transfers
Manchester United: Players linked with transfers
1/23 Ahmed Musa
Leicester City have been sniffing around the CSKA Moscow striker but United may hijack the deal, given their desperate need for pace and movement up front.
2/23 Franco Vazquez
The Italian international would offer a dynamic presence in attacking midfield, having impressed during his time at Palermo.
3/23 IN: Neymar (Barcelona)
A long-term target of vice-chairman Ed Woodward but a fanciful one, who is said to want to move to a club where he will be the top dog. However, the Brazilian is negotiating a new deal at the Nou Camp and will use any reported interest as leverage in the contract talks.
4/23 Renato Sanches (Benfica)
Only 18-years-old but highly rated by the Portuguese club. United's scouts have watched the teenage midfielder multiple times in recent weeks and talks are already said to have taken place. Could cost £30m.
5/23 Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
After Ashley Young's groin surgery United are facing a crisis at the back. Ryan Bertrand is said to be a target but when Luke Shaw returns will he really want to sit on the bench?
2015 Getty Images
6/23 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all chasing the Bayern Munich striker, who has grown restless in Germany. His fee would be around £70m in the summer.
7/23 Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The stand-out player of 2014/15 has stunk out 2015/16 and suffered a torrid few months at Stamford Bridge. A fresh start may be in order and his movement would be very welcome in United's static frontline.
8/23 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
A long-term target, no doubt, but January may be a bit too soon. The Welshman’s troubles in Spain have eased slightly this term but he still plays second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu. At Old Trafford, he would take centre stage. The question is whether Bale, and Real president Florentino Perez, would be ready to call quits on record-breaking move to the Spanish giants.
9/23 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had to tell Ed Woodward to stop emailing him earlier this year, so persistent were Manchester United in their chase of Muller. The roving forward would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford but any move would be a major coup.
10/23 Edinson Cavani (PSG)
United are in desperate need of some attacking reinforcements, and the Uruguayan would surely be able to aid them in their quest for goals and attacking flair. He would cost a hefty fee but always seems to be unhappy at the French club.
2015 Getty Images
11/23 Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht)
The young Belgian midfielder, 18, is widely courted due to his versatility throughout the midfield. He would add genuine energy to United’s engine room, but would likely be one for the future with Louis van Gaal's squad currently brimming with central midfielders.
12/23 Breel Embolo (Basel)
The Swiss forward is still raw but direct in his play and would help bolster United’s meagre attacking options. Still only 18, it is possible that he and Anthony Martial could form a partnership which would provide United fans with years of entertainment.
13/23 Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)
Behind both Thiago Silva and David Luiz in the PSG pecking order, the Brazilian is frustrated with a lack of opportunites at the Parc des Princes. He's also attracted the interest of Chelsea.
14/23 Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan)
After making his debut in goal for Milan at the tender age of 16, clubs have been keen to see whether they can tie up a deal for the goalkeeper while he is still young. If United were to secure his signing, he could act as an excellent understudy (and potential future replacement) to David de Gea. However, his agent Mino Raiola has already said he is worth £150m.
15/23 Oumar Niasse
The Lokomotiv Moscow striker was voted the Russian Premier League’s player of 2015 and is being monitored by a host of Premier League clubs.
16/23 Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
A more realistic target perhaps but the Algerian playmaker would still come at a cost. He has been, alongside Leicester City teammate Jamie Vardy, the Premier League’s stand-out performer this season. The question is whether he could maintain such form consistently and on a bigger stage. The Foxes meanwhile have no interest in selling.
17/23 Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Consistent goals at Everton have seen the Belgium international linked with a host of clubs, including Manchester United. It's claimed Everton would want £65m in order to sell.
18/23 Sadio Mane (Southampton)
When United sounded out a move for the Senegalese forward at the end of the last transfer window, Southampton valued him between £35-40m. There is no suggestion that Mane’s pricetag has changed but then again, this is the United that paid a potential £58m for the relatively unproven Anthony Martial. That didn’t work out so terribly…
19/23 Felipe Anderson (Lazio)
The 22-year-old Brazilian winger is regarded as one of the best young talents in Europe, despite a difficult start to the season, and has regularly been linked with a move to United. Ed Woodward may have to beat competition from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain if he is to take Anderson off Lazio’s hands.
20/23 James Rodriguez (midfield)
Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez faces an uncertain future after new head coach Zinedine Zidane left him out of the first-team named in his opening match in charge of the club. With Isco preferred in a three-man midfield, Rodriguez could decide that he needs to leave the club in order to secure first-team football.
21/23 Ayoze Perez (Newcastle United)
A lack of pace in attack has often been cited as one of the main problems for Louis van Gaal’s side. Perez would solve that, as well as providing a useful option off the bench.
22/23 Matteo Darmian (defender)
The 26-year-old Italian made a bright start to his Old Trafford career but has since gone off the boil. At times, he's struggled to get into Louis van Gaal's side, with Ashley Young preferred as a makeshift right-back. A move back to Serie A could be on the cards.
2015 Manchester United FC
23/23 Marcos Rojo (defender)
The Argentinian has struggled with injuries since joining 18 months ago and was exiled for a short time after missing his flight for the club's pre-season tour. United could be ready to cut their losses on the £16million defender this January.
David De Gea
The Madrid-born goalkeeper was but an administrative error away from moving to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of last summer’s window, with a deal between Real and United breaking down at the eleventh hour.
The two clubs subsequently blamed each other for the collapse and De Gea, who had only a year remaining on his contract at Old Trafford, signed a new four-year deal.
This, in theory, worked for both the ‘keeper and his club. The contract presumably granted De Gea permission to move once Los Blancos came calling again while guaranteeing United a fee closer to his true valuation.
However, if Real cannot buy players this summer, that plan goes up in smoke. De Gea looks set to stay for some time yet.
The Portuguese’s time in Spain is coming to an end. Club president Florentino Perez sees Gareth Bale as the future face of the world’s biggest club and Ronaldo himself has never been one to declare an unconditional loyalty to his club.
The 30-year-old left United for Real as a part of a world-record £80million deal in 2009 and barely a year has gone by in which he has not been linked with a return.
That, however, may be off the cards for 18 months, at least, and it looks as though Los Blancos will be left with the three-time Ballon d’Or winner on their books until the 2017/18 season.
After the dismissal of Rafael Benitez, the Welshman was believed to be considering his future and agitating for a move away. Since joining from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013, Bale has struggled to settle into his new life in Spain and a move to the Premier League, where he was once so devastating, would make the most sense.
United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has made no secret of his desire to bring a high-profile star of world football to Old Trafford. Bale certainly fits that bill but this ban would block any potential move.
In any case, the 26-year-old winger sounded more committed to his current club and life under new head coach Zinedine Zidane after their 5-0 win against Deportivo la Coruna last weekend, in which Bale scored a hat-trick.
Reports emerged last week which suggested that Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Harry Kane was being monitored by Real.
As unlikely as they sounded, these reports were well-sourced and there is no reason not to believe that the England international is at least on the club’s radar.
It has also been rumoured that he interests Woodward and, if that interest is genuine, this ban clears the way for a move to Old Trafford.
Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed that the Bayern Munich striker wants a change of scene and is keen to experience a new league while he is in his prime. United, Manchester City and Chelsea were all alerted, but it was suggested that they would face strong competition from Real and Barcelona.
If Lewandowski is keen to move quickly, this ban would rule out a move to Madrid. Louis van Gaal, meanwhile, is known to be a big admirer of the Poland international.
The 21-year-old Atletico midfielder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford regularly in the last few weeks, despite his father claiming that he is more than happy to stay at Vicente Calderon. Is he more than happy to stay for the next 18 months, though?
United’s hand may now be forced. A £34million release clause may need to be matched in order for the deal to go through.
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