Manchester United set to launch £54m bid for Atletico Madrid ace Saul Niguez and step up interest in Roma's Kostas Manolas
- Jose Mourinho is hoping to put his own stamp on Manchester United
- Saul Niguez has been in impressive form for Atletico Madrid this season
- Niguez's image rights are part owned by a firm linked with Jorge Mendes
- Ed Woodward has discussed potential targets with Mourinho's agent
- Manchester United are lining up a £54 million move for Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez as part of the new era under Jose Mourinho.
Saul is one of the hottest properties in Spain and his stunning solo goal against Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final showcased his considerable talent.
The 21-year-old has a similar profile to Renato Sanches, who United were pursuing at Benfica before Bayern beat them to his signature.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez is among Manchester United's list of summer transfer targets
Niguez scored a delightful goal against Bayern Munich to help his side progress to the Champions League final
Niguez (centre, pictured with Antoine Griezmann and Filipe Luis) is gearing up for the Champions League final
United have turned their attention to Niguez after missing out on Bayern Munich-bound Renato Sanches
|La Liga 2015-16|
|Chances created (inc. assists)||19|
|Pass completion %||76%|
Saul, though, has an edge on Sanches in terms of experience. He has played regularly in all competitions for Atletico in the past two seasons, becoming a key part of Diego Simeone’s impressive team.
His versatility — he can play in central midfield or out wide — is sure to appeal to Mourinho. During a loan spell with Rayo Vallecano in 2013-14, Saul even played as a central defender.
He has not been capped by Spain and his omission from the squad for the national team’s friendlies in March caused uproar.
Saul has 47 appearances for Spain at various youth levels and was called into the full squad for the first time last year for a friendly against Costa Rica and a Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus, although he did not get on the pitch on either occasion. However, Vicente del Bosque has included him in his 23-man party for Euro 2016.
Atletico are reluctant to lose a player of such importance and recently agreed a contract with him worth £80,000 a week, which runs until the summer of 2021.
The new deal saw his release clause increase from £34m to £54m. That complicates the situation for United.
Incoming Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is already drawing up his list of summer targets
Niguez's image rights are part owned by Quality Football Ireland, a firm part owned by Jorge Mendes
Atletico Madrid will be reluctant to part company with midfielder Niguez following a fine campaign
|Serie A 2015-16|
|Minutes on pitch||3123|
|Tackles and Blocks|
|Total tackles made||62|
|Ground duel success %||63.80%|
|Aerial duel success %||77.20%|
|Total clearances made||153|
Saul is also adored by Atletico’s fans and Simeone has put huge faith in him, but the Champions League finalists — who take on Real Madrid in Milan on Saturday — would be powerless to prevent his departure if United trigger his release clause.
Niguez’s image rights are part owned by Quality Football Ireland, a firm which is part owned by Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes.
In a separate move, United have made initial enquiries about a deal for Roma defender Kostas Manolas.
Any transfer will have to wait until United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Mourinho and his agent Mendes have agreed their list of targets, but the 24-year-old is valued at £30m.
Chelsea have a strong interest in Manolas, too, and are talking over a move for Roma’s Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
Arsenal have also expressed an interest in Manolas. Roma must pay his previous club Olympiacos 50 per cent of the fee should he be sold before September 1, though it is understood this could be avoided with an initial loan.
Arsenal and Chelsea have looked at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly as a defensive alternative to Manolas.
The 24-year-old centre back is quick and powerful and has been outstanding during Napoli’s march to the runners-up spot in Serie A.
The French-born defender was the subject of failed bids from West Ham and Everton last year.
Roma centre back Kostas Manolas is being chased by Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal
Arsenal and Chelsea will step up their interest in Kalidou Koulibaly if United pip the London duo to Manolas