Saturday 19 August 2017

Alvaro Morata emerges as Manchester United's top transfer target to succeed Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata

Jason Burt

Alvaro Morata has emerged as Manchester United’s top transfer target as they aim to make the key signing to succeed Zlatan Ibrahmovic as their main centre-forward.

The Spain forward is regarded as a more viable option right now by United manager Jose Mourinho than Torino striker Andrea Belotti or Everton’s Romelu Lukaku who are far more expensive.

United’s interest in Morata is separate from any negotiations that may take place over David De Gea although it would be expected that Real Madrid may try and open talks over the goalkeeper.

Morata is valued at around £50million although United are expected to bid less than that. Whatever fee is agreed it will be substantially lower than the £100million Everton are still quoting for Lukaku and the 100 million euros (£87million) release clause Torino are insisting they want for Belotti.

Mourinho is desperate to bolster his attack after frequently complaining about United’s wastefulness last season. The loss of Ibrahimovic, who suffered a cruciate ligament knee injury against Anderlecht on April 20, apparently led to United re-focussing their transfer plans on a new no9.

The club has dropped its interest in Antoine Griezmann for this summer although any deal to attempt to sign the French international was closed off when Atletico Madrid lost their appeal against a ban on them buying players during window. That also scuppered their plans to bring in Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon or even Chelsea’ Diego Costa.

Lacazette represents another option for United and they have been monitoring the striker – who was the subject of bids from Arsenal and West Ham United last summer - this season. He has indicated he finally wants to leave Lyon.

There has been strong interest in Morata from Chelsea, where he is admired by manager Antonio Conte, and that remains, as does their interest in Lukaku, and more recently from AC Milan but United have registered their interest in the 24-year-old. The 6ft 2in striker has scored 15 times in 26 league games this season with Real but is not first-choice.

Morata has suggested he wants to stay with the Spanish champions, who won their 12th European Cup last Saturday with the player again on the bench, who he rejoined last summer when they exercised a £26million buy-back clause having previously sold him to Juventus for £18million.

United insist De Gea is not for sale but are expecting that resolve to be tested by Real, possibly as early as this week, who is rated at around £60million.

Real tried and failed to sign De Gea two years ago with a deal that would have meant Real's Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas moved to Old Trafford as part of a £29million package. The switch collapsed amid much acrimony on transfer deadline day in September 2015.

After the collapse of the proposed move, United tied De Gea to a new four-year contract worth £200,000 a week that commits him to Old Trafford until June 2019, with the option of another 12 months. It means the club are confident they are in a far stronger position to keep De Gea this summer – and he has not pushed for a move despite privately expressing a desire to one day play for Real – or drive a better deal.

Meanwhile Anthony Martial’s agent, Philippe Lamboley, has claimed that he has been assured by United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward that the club do not want the player to leave this summer.

“If Ed Woodward tells me they want him to leave, things are different,” Lamboley told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche with Martial, who has been criticised by Mourinho, having two years left on his contract. “But that is not what he told me during our last meeting.”

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