11 players Manchester United should sign in January
Greg Lea scours Europe for a handful of potential transfer targets for the Red Devils next month
1. Andrea Belotti, Torino
Belotti has found the back of the net 11 times for Torino in Serie A this season, with Inter frontman Mauro Icardi and Roma striker Edin Dzeko the only players ahead of the 22-year-old in the scoring charts. The former Palermo man is a strong runner who’s dangerous in the air and an intelligent mover on the ground, but it will probably be tough to tempt him away from Turin in the January window: Belotti’s contract includes a mouth-watering €100m buyout clause.
2. Naby Keita, RB Leipzig
The driving force behind RB Leipzig’s surprise title challenge in the Bundesliga, Keita has emerged as one of the most sought-after young players in Europe in the last few months. Possessing a healthy blend of dynamism, intelligence and creativity, the 21-year-old midfielder has the ability to both build his side’s attacking moves and break down those of his opponents. He reportedly rejected approaches from Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in favour of a move to East Germany in the summer, but a big-money bid from Manchester United could be too good for Leipzig to turn down.
3. Victor Lindelof, Benfica
Phil Jones’ unanticipated re-emergence as a credible option at centre-back has been a major boost to the Red Devils in the last few weeks, but another defender wouldn’t go amiss at Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho continues to build a squad strong enough to win the Premier League as soon as possible. Lindelof, an aggressive and robust centre-half who should have little trouble adapting to English football, was linked with a move to United in November.
Next: A Portuguese hotshot
4. Dimitri Payet, West Ham
West Ham may be struggling this term, but it’s hard to attribute too much of the blame to a player who has created more scoring chances than anyone else in the division and arguably been responsible for both the best goal and assist of the season so far. Given that he turns 30 in March, Payet clearly isn’t one for the future, but his flair and invention may well help United over the line in their attempt to secure a return to the Champions League.
5. Andre Silva, Porto
Porto’s financial problems look set to dictate their strategy in the January window, with any sufficient offers for players such as Hector Herrera, Yacine Brahimi and Silva likely to be accepted. The 21-year-old striker has scored 14 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions in 2016/17, with his hold-up play and clever movement also catching the eye. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will remain United’s first-choice No.9 for the current campaign come what may, but the chance to capture a talent like Silva shouldn’t be passed up.
6. Elseid Hysaj, Napoli
Antonio Valencia has been one of United’s leading performers at right-back this term, but the club should nevertheless take a proactive approach to securing a long-term successor to the 31-year-old. Hysaj would fit the bill perfectly: the Albania international is still only 22 yet has a wealth of top-flight and European experience under his belt with Napoli, while his ability to fill in on the left-hand side of a back four could come in handy during times of injury-related crisis. Hysaj doesn’t appear to be in too much of a rush to depart the Stadio San Paolo, but it would be difficult for any player to rebuff an offer from United.
7. Goncalo Guedes, Benfica
Guedes has been in fantastic form for Benfica, who are top of the Primeira Liga and through to the knockout stage of the Champions League. The 20-year-old has been deployed as a second striker for much of this season after making the breakthrough as a winger in 2014, with United having supposedly sent scouts to Portugal to watch him in action earlier this year.
Next: Defensive reinforcements
8. Milan Badelj, Fiorentina
Michael Carrick has once again demonstrated his importance to United this season, but the fact that the Red Devils continue to rely so heavily on the 35-year-old is an indictment on their recent recruitment decisions. Badelj could be the man to gradually replace Carrick in the deep-lying midfield role, with reports in Italy suggesting that Fiorentina could sanction his departure in January to extract maximum value from a player whose contract expires in 18 months’ time. Elegant, composed and a fine reader of the game, Badelj has the attributes to contribute on both sides of the ball.
9. Niklas Sule, Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim are having a brilliant season under the guidance of 29-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann, with Sule virtually ever-present up to now. As you would expect from someone who stands at 6ft 5in, the centre-half is physically imposing and excellent in the air; he’s also technically proficient when it comes to playing the ball out from the back, while his anticipation and awareness means he’s rarely caught out of position.
10. Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg
Mourinho doesn’t seem to be particularly keen on Luke Shaw, so United could be in the market for a new left-back next month. While Rodriguez is better going forward than he is at defending, he’s patently a gifted player who may be looking to depart an underachieving Wolfsburg side in January. Paris Saint-Germain are thought to be sniffing around, though, so the Red Devils cannot afford to hang around if they want to bring the Switzerland international to Old Trafford.
11. Jose Fonte, Southampton
Several Southampton players have been snapped up by bigger clubs in the last few seasons, and Fonte could be the latest through the exit door at St Mary’s. The centre-back, who joined the club from Crystal Palace while they were still in League One in 2010, has grown in stature ever since his first Premier League appearance four-and-a-half years ago, with Fonte now an integral ingredient in one of the division’s most solid defensive units.
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Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).