Sunday 26 February 2017

Jose Mourinho 'closing in' on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic deals

Jack de Menezes

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being heavily linked with Manchester United
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being heavily linked with Manchester United

Manchester United are ready to step up their summer transfer plans next week by pressing on with moves for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the new season draws closer.

United manager Jose Mourinho will welcome his new squad back for pre-season training at the start of next month, with defender Eric Bailly currently the only new addition to the side that he has inherited from Louis van Gaal.

But with United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward active in the transfer market, moves for both Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mkhitaryan and free agent Ibrahimovic could go through as early as next week, with the latter no longer involved at Euro 2016 after Sweden’s group stage elimination that saw the striker retire from international football.

Mkhitaryan has just one year remaining on his contract and while Dortmund were hopeful of securing the Armenia international to a new contract, the Bundesliga club have accepted that they will need to sell the attacking midfielder in order to avoid losing him on a free transfer in 2017.

The 27-year-old has turned down a contract extension offer from Dortmund, and according to The Guardian, United are confident that a £30m offer will be accepted in order to open negotiations with Mkhitaryan’s agent, Mino Raiola, with a long-term contract expected to be offered.

Any potential departure would not be disastrous for Dortmund, given the move would represent a sizeable profit on the £23.5m that the club paid Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. Having seen the likes of Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels all leave the club after being plucked by Bayern Munich, Dortmund were keen to try and dispel their reputation for being a selling club. However, Mkhitaryan is forcing their hand by refusing an extension, and his desire to test himself at a new club will likely see him leave.

Outspoken football agent Raiola is also responsible for Ibrahimovic, and the two met up on Saturday to discuss United’s offer that was made before the start of Euro 2016. The Sweden international has already been offered a deal with wages worth £220,000-a-week, something which United may regret after the 34-year-old disappointed at the European Championship on France, but Ibrahimovic is expected to meet with Mourinho in the first week of July to finalise a move to Old Trafford.

Dortmund meanwhile appear to be preparing for life without Mkhitaryan – who has also garnered interest from Arsenal – by making a move for Bayer Leverkusen forward Karim Bellarabi, although their initial £29.2m offer was immediately rejected.

“There was an official request from Dortmund few days ago, but it was instantly rejected,” Leverkusen’s sporting director Rudi Völler told German newspaper Bild on Saturday. “To sell Karim is not an option for us at Leverkusen. He is definitely staying, he is not for sale.”

According to the same report, Dortmund are also interested in bringing Götze back to the Signal Iduna Park, while former Chelsea midfielder André Schürrle is also a target with his future uncertain at Wolfsburg.

Independent News Service

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