One potential priority for Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag this summer will seemingly be to find a quality, long-term fit to bolster his midfield ranks, with the Dutchman said to be targeting another ‘leading‘ option in that central role.
The recent suggestion is that the 53-year-old could well have found his ideal candidate, with reports in Spain claiming that the Red Devils are willing to fork out around €80m (£72m) to sign Real Madrid sensation Federico Valverde.
Although it may prove hard to dislodge the Uruguay international from the Bernabeu any time soon – with more than four years to run on his existing contract – the 24-year-old has certainly proved in recent years just how much of a talent he is.
Something of a midfield “monster” – according to journalist Juan Arango – the former Penarol maestro has been in “unbelievable” form so far this season (as per Joe Cole), with eight goals and four assists in 31 games across all fronts.
The “unsung hero” of last season’s Champions League final victory over Liverpool according to Cole, the 47-cap machine has caught the eye due to his boundless energy and running power in the middle of the park, showcased by his ranking in the top 5% for progressive carries among players in his position in Europe’s big five leagues.
To be able to bolster the Old Trafford squad with the signing of such a dynamic asset – who also ranks in the top 9% in Europe for progressive passes received – would prove a real masterstroke for Ten Hag, with the hope being that Valverde can replicate the impact of former Real Madrid team-mate Casemiro in Manchester.
The experienced Brazilian has swiftly assumed cult hero status as a result of his displays so far this season, with United having moved to bring the 30-year-old to the Theatre of Dreams on a £70m deal in August following the Brentford horror show.
The five-time European champion has showcased a remarkable hunger to take United back to the top of the game, despite having already enjoyed a glittering career in Spain, having revealed that he feels “like a 15-year-old“, such is his enjoyment of playing in the red jersey.
Aside from the recent blip against Crystal Palace, as the ex-Porto ace was sent off following a tussle with Will Hughes, it has largely been plain sailing so far, with the midfield colossus having been the “cement” in Ten Hag’s side according to his manager.
That impact is evidenced by the 6 foot 1 powerhouse ranking fourth in the Premier League for tackles made (56), having also left many “surprised” – such as club legend Paul Scholes – due to his previously underappreciated quality on the ball, scoring four goals and supplying five assists to date.
It would appear that Casemiro has helped to revive the winning mentality in Manchester after previously flourishing in the Spanish capital, with it seemingly wise for Ten Hag to repeat that transfer masterclass by poaching Valverde from Los Blancos this summer.