As usual, Manchester United have been linked with nearly every available star this summer. Jose Mourinho typically does quite well in the transfer market, identifying the best players to address the weaknesses in his sides. However, every signing comes with risks. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of players linked with a summer switch to Old Trafford to see who could be the best fit.
Bale, on his day, can stake a concrete claim to be a top 2 player in the world. Blessed with absolutely devastating pace, technique, and skill, He would revolutionize Mourinho’s side. He is proven in the Premier League, with arguably the best season of his career coming in a Tottenham jersey. There is little doubt that the Welsh wizard would be an instant hit and the best player at the club. Entering the prime of his career, Bale would instantly make United title favorites in the world’s most competitive league. He’s that good.
Injuries have hampered Bale at Madrid. He has missed significant chunks of the last two season with ankle, calf, and hamstring ailments. In addition to being injury prone, he has shown no desire to leave Real Madrid, where he’s won the Champions League three times and the La Liga title once, all in three years. He’s at the best team in the world and is guaranteed a place in the starting lineup when fit. It’s extremely unlikely that he would leave the Spanish capital for United, especially because Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, his possible replacement, has just suffered a horrible ankle injury.
James Rodriguez is a bona fide superstar. The 25 year old Colombian is, in terms of pure talent, one of the best five players at Real Madrid. Since setting the 2014 World Cup alight, he has proven to be a true game changer. While making only 22 appearances (13 starts), Rodriguez chipped in with 8 goals and 6 assists. He would add goals from the midfield to a United side while also bringing creativity and flair. James seems to be on the outside looking in at Madrid, and would be easier to pry away than Bale. He is tailor made for the number 7 shirt.
He is unproven in the Premier League, where he would face far more physicality than he is used to seeing in the La Liga. Also, James thrives when he is the main man. In the Colombian side, he is the chief orchestrator and their play goes through him. At United, he would face a similar situation where he would be among other stars such as Paul Pogba and, for now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There is room for concern with how he would cope with playing second fiddle at times. Lastly, he couldn’t make it into Zidane’s side due to his reluctance to defend. Playing for a defensive minded coach like Mourinho might not suit him.
Squawka’s Muhammad Butt perfectly explains why Morata is a Mourinho striker. The Spaniard, at 6’2”, is a big physical forward who can hold up the ball and bring others into the play. But he is more than just your typical target man. Morata is quite mobile and blends his athleticism with technical grace, as Bayern learned in last year’s Champions League semifinal. Similar to James, he found it difficult at times to get into Zidane’s starting eleven, but still managed 15 goals in 26 league appearances (14 starts). Morata loves working with Mourinho, and this could be a match made in heaven, especially since he’s also played with Pogba before. United fans could get used to seeing the Frenchman thread through balls the Morata, who does an excellent job of running the channels.
Is Morata good enough to be United’s main man up front? In 46 appearances at Juventus, he managed a underwhelming 15 goals as he was unable to unseat Carlos Tevez as the starting striker. Also, being Madrid born, he is playing for his boyhood club, so it is likely he would like to return at some point, especially if Madrid inserts another buy back clause in his transfer. United need stability and a forward who wants to be at United, for United, is key to that. Morata may not be that man.
The 23 year old Italian force of nature burst onto the scene last season, bagging 26 league goals for Torino. He is a cold-blooded finisher. What makes Belotti so good is the makeup of his goals. By scoring 10 with his head, 5 with his left foot, and 11 with his right foot, he has shown himself to be a versatile marksman. Belotti scored 15 of his goals from wide areas, which would surely help a United side who were second to Southampton in attempted crosses. The Torino man is a physical whirlwind, combining his strength and mobility with sheer aggression. He works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball, averaging 2.5 tackles a game, something that is certain to appeal to Mourinho. Like Morata, he likes to run the channels and bring others into play, which he does well on the counter, something that is also sure to endear him to the United boss. The Torino Marksman can also create chances for his teammates, providing 55 chances and 7 assists, stats only bested by Ljajic in his team. Simply put, Belotti scored 26 goals in a mid-table Serie A side. Imagine the damage he could do in a United side with Pogba, Herrera, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial, and Rashford all trying to get him the ball. Yes, it’s frightening indeed.
€100million is what it will cost United to bring Belotti to Manchester. For a striker as good as he is, there are safer options (See Morata and Lukaku). He has only been in the spotlight for one season and it would quite the risk to rest United’s title chances on him. Old Trafford is a much bigger stage than the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino and there is very little room for error. Should he get off to a rough start, it could very well be another long season for Mourinho and Co.
Bale is unlikely to leave Madrid and is quite injury prone. James is a defensive liability and could struggle to adapt to the Premier league and Mourinho’s tactics. Morata is unproven as a true starting number nine and is a Madrid boy at heart. Belotti could be a one season wonder and comes with an outrageous price tag. Out of the four, it looks like Morata is the most likely to come to United, but, as ESPNFC’s Andy Mitten states, he could be trying to strengthen his status at Madrid by threatening to leave. Overall, Belotti looks to be the best choice due to the way he fits into United’s and Mourinho’s style of play. But will he or any of the others come? Only time will tell.