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Sunday 13 October 2019

Foxes determined to fight off United interest in Maguire as Martial nears move

Leicester City and England defender Harry Maguire. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leicester City and England defender Harry Maguire. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Luke Edwards

Leicester City are determined to fight off Manchester United's interest in England defender Harry Maguire as Jose Mourinho elects not to deny Anthony Martial a move if he really is unhappy at Old Trafford.

United have made Maguire their first-choice transfer target as they look to strengthen their defence, but time is against them and Leicester do not want to lose another key player after selling Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City earlier this month.

The transfer window will close for English clubs on August 9.

Leicester are trying to persuade Maguire, who joined them from Hull City for £17.5m (€19.5m) last year, to sign a new contract with them on vastly improved terms, believed to be in the region of £80,000 (€90,000) a week.

United are unlikely to be deterred, but the early end to the transfer window favours Leicester. As things stand, a formal bid has not been made for the 25-year-old, who was one of England's best players as they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, but this is an uncomfortable time for the Foxes.

United would be prepared to pay more than £50m (56m) for Maguire and it could ultimately come down to whether the player starts to agitate for a move.

Maguire is on holiday and is not due to return to training until the first week in August. With that in mind, Leicester believe the odds on him staying are in their favour as they only have to resist United's interest for another three weeks.

Mourinho is keen to add another centre-back to his squad in this window, but he could also be looking for a striker if Martial confirms he wants to leave this summer.

United want Martial to stay and are ready to activate a clause in his contract that will extend it by 12 months, which would take it to the summer of 2020.

However, the United hierarchy - and in particular Mourinho - have been alarmed by briefings from the player's representatives that he still wants to quit Old Trafford, after spending much of last season out of the starting line-up.

At boardroom level, there is a desire to resist any attempt by Martial to force a move to Tottenham Hotspur, but Mourinho does not want an unhappy player in his squad and will demand to know what the 22-year-old's intentions are while the club are on tour in the United States.

If Martial personally informs Mourinho that he wants to leave before the close of the transfer window next month, the Portuguese will not stand in his way.

However, that does not mean United are willing to let him sign for Spurs, even though he is a priority target for the London club. Spurs have been led to believe that Martial wants to join them.

Instead, United would prefer to sell him to a club in Europe - Bayern Munich have also been monitoring the situation - so that he does not strengthen a domestic rival.

The ball is now in Martial's court and he will have to make a decision on how serious he is about wanting to move on.

If the former Monaco player confirms he wants to quit United, any suitors will have to make an attractive offer, with the bidding likely to start at £55m (€60m) for a player who was once rated one of European football's top prospects.

There is no doubt that Martial has lost his way at United and a move could reignite his career. When asked after United's goalless draw with San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday whether he wanted to stay at the club, Martial merely smiled and walked away. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

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