A look a Manchester United's newest signing: Anthony Martial
Imagine paying almost €50m to sign a 19-year-old who has started just 29 games in the French league.
Well, Manchester United are about to do just that as they close in on a deal for Monaco forward Anthony Martial.
Let’s be honest, Martial is not a name that has been on the tips of too many tongues in a summer when Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, defensive superstars Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos, Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller and (most laughably of them all) Barcelona icon Neymar have been linked with high profile moves to Old Trafford.
Yet having tried and failed to sign virtually every A-lister you could dream up for a fantasy football team, United’s bumbling ‘transfer Tzar’ Ed Woodward and the club’s manager Louis van Gaal find themselves on the final page of their list of targets.
While deals for Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian represented good business from Woodward, the key positions he was requested to fill in this transfer window have remained unresolved.
A powerhouse central defender and a proven goal scorer must have been at the top of the Woodward/Van Gaal agenda when they considered their options with an estimated €200m kitty at their disposal, yet they are set to finish this period of transfer trading with a net spend total of zero. It is highly improbable tale.
David De Gea’s inevitable move to Real Madrid, the departures of Robin van Persie, Nani, Javier Hernandez, Radamel Falcao, Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans and the €63m sale of Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint-Germain brought a windfall of cash into the Old Trafford coffers, while also cancelling out a large chunk of their wage bill.
Yet after failing to land the megastars they wanted, United have pulled out their joker ahead of Tuesday's 6pm transfer deadline and at €49.2m, it is a roll of the dice that is loaded with risk.
There can be no doubt that Martial boasts thrillingly exciting raw talents. With his speed, goal power and creative abilities, this Gallic starlet has been picked out as one of most promising young players in European football over the last few months, but his arrival can hardly be hailed as a transfer coup by Woodward and Van Gaal.
Any club willing to pay such a garish sum for a potentially decent player would have been given a green light to complete the move, with suggestions in France and beyond that Tottenham are among those who baulked at the prospect of a €20m deal for Martial earlier this summer.
Let’s put the doubts over the price tag being paid to one side for a moment and consider what are United getting for their vast investment?
Martial’s record at youth team level was sublime. The 32 goals he scored in just 21 games with the Lyon under-17 team confirmed he was a star in the making, yet Monaco only handed over €5m to sign him in the summer of 2013.
During his two seasons in the principality, Martial has showed real signs of promise and yet 11 goals in 52 French league games hardly suggests this is the player who will transform United into world beaters overnight.
Compared by observers to a youthful Thierry Henry, Martial boasts some of the composure and grace on the ball that the Arsenal goal scoring great exuded during his decorated career, with the sparkling burst of pace he has at his disposal a glorious gift that United will look to exploit.
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim has deployed Martial in a wide role and that may be where Van Gaal plans to use him, with the option of using him as a lead striker and dropping skipper Wayne Rooney back into a supporting role also opening up.
They are dilemma's Van Gaal will now ponder and yet the biggest question of them all is whether Martial is anywhere close to be being ready to take centre-stage in a Manchester United team?
Lacking in experience at any level of the game, surely Martial will need time to settle at United and yet that is a commodity Van Gaal does not have on his side. A few weeks in the club's under-21 side may be the best way for him to find his feet at Old Trafford, but that is unlikely to happen.
A home game against Liverpool on September 12th is likely to mark Martial's Man Utd debut and we will not have to wait long to see whether this kid is ready to swim or sink.
Eyebrows were raised when United paid out €16m to sign a fresh-faced Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003 and the Portuguese teenager took two years to find his feet in English football before he began to realize his potential.
When you pay €49m for any player, settling in periods are not generally part of an agenda, yet is would be remarkable if Martial can buck that trend.
Is this the transfer evidence that football logic has taken on a whole new level of depravity? Time will tell.
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