On the first proper working day of this January’s transfer window, it’s nice to see a familiar face. An old friend, if you like. Ah, ‘Neymar to Manchester United’, how was your Christmas?
The Daily Star, citing French publication Le 10 Sport, return to that old chestnut and claim that Louis van Gaal is ready to trigger a £140million release clause in the Brazilian’s contract, after talks stalled over his new contract at the Nou Camp.
Vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s interest in Neymar is genuine, as shown by his rather clumsy advances towards the player last summer. However, any transfer talk is most likely an attempt by the Brazilian’s camp at gaining leverage in contract negotiations with Nou Camp officials.
A slightly more realistic target is Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos, who has also caught Chelsea’s eye, according to Spanish publication Fichajes.
The Brazilian has struggled to force his way past first-choice centre-backs David Luiz and Thiago Silva and is beginning to become frustrated with sitting out of Laurent Blanc’s side as they canter towards the Ligue 1 title.
Van Gaal’s defence has been sturdy this season, but with Daley Blind still acting as a make-shift centre-half, reinforcements would not go amiss.
An altogether more likely addition, however, is Southampton’s Sadio Mane, especially after his falling out with manager Ronald Koeman at the weekend.
The Senegalese forward turned up late to a pre-match meeting before the defeat to Norwich City and was left out of the side as a result.
The incident, according to The Independent’s chief sports writer Ian Herbert, has given encouragement to United that a deal could be done for Mane, but they face several obstacles if they are to get their man.
Elsewhere, Marcos Rojo could be on the move in the opposite direction if there is any truth in reports linking the defender with Real Madrid.
The Argentinian has been out since November with a dislocated shoulder and has largely flattered to deceives since joining from Sporting in the summer of 2014.
That may make a move to the Santiago Bernabeu seem unlikely but, according to Fichajes, Rafael Benitez is eager to sign the left-back as provide cover for Marcelo.
Another full-back rumoured to be on the way out of Old Trafford is Matteo Darmian, despite only just joining the club in the last window.
The 26-year-old Italian enjoyed an excellent start to his career in England and was one of United’s stand-out performers at the start of the season.
He has, however, gone somewhat off the boil since October’s international break and now a loan move to Juventus has been mooted, with the option of the deal becoming permanent for a fee of £11million.
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