If reports from Duncan Castles are to be believed, Juventus attacking midfielder Paulo Dybala could be on his way to Manchester United in the summer for a stunning €100 million (£86 million).
“There have been some reports In Italy that Manchester United have declared an interest in Dybala, however, our sources are telling us and the information we have is that in fact United have agreed in principle to pay the 100m euros (£86m) buyout clause that it would take to get Dybala out of Juventus.”
Castles then cut to the chase explaining why three players having doubts over their futures may concern incoming players, such as Dybala.
“From Juventus’ perspective they want to find a club they can sell Dybala to and Manchester United are obviously strong candidate for them at present because United are unhappy with their squad in total – but particularly with attacking options,” Castles said.
“We know Romelu Lukaku is considering his future because he’s been moved from being the first choice striker to being the second choice striker by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“Lukaku’s new representatives have made it quite clear that a move to Italy appeals to them with Inter Milan most likely.
“Antonio Conte gave an interview to Gazzetta where he said he wouldn’t be taking up an offer he had from Roma to become their new coach and hinting strongly that his next job would instead be at Inter which of course rules that position out for Jose Mourinho.
“I think Dybala will be a serious option for United because they need to strengthen in attack and midfield.
“There is a shortage of high-quality strikers on the market as there always is and United aren’t in the strongest position to recruit because they are going to miss Champions League football.
“They are already not an attractive proposition because we’re talking about a club that has finished just second in six seasons since Ed Woodward became executive vice-chairman.
“[They’re] miles off the pace this season and in fact a manager who gave a press conference ahead of the last game and was asked if it was realistic given the large amount of transfer expenditure he has been promised by the Glazers and Woodward whether it was realistic for them to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool and he said no it wasn’t realistically.
“He has essentially ruled them out of the title race more than a year in advance of its conclusion.
“If you’re a top level player you’ve got to start asking serious questions whether Manchester United is a club you want to move to, particularly if you see their most expensive player Paul Pogba actively trying to get out to Real Madrid.
“Their best player, David de Gea, is unhappy with his situation and considering a move elsewhere and their current most expensive striker is trying to get out, or openly advertising himself to Serie A, which means United are going to have to move down the potential list of targets and look to individuals like Dybala.
“I’m not sure how much of a market he has with other clubs.”
The attacking midfielder established himself as one of Europe’s premium attacking midfielders at Juventus, for whom he scored 22 Serie A goals last season (via WhoScored) after leading them to the Champions League final in 2016/17 with a particularly notable brace in the quarterfinal against Barcelona.
However, this season, he has found himself isolated as the tactical victim of Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival, a move which has seen Massimiliano Allegri’s side shift in favour of a 4-3-3 formation that does not leave room for second strikers or attacking midfielders. Dybala has thus been limited to 5 goals and 4 assists in this season’s Serie A, though he scored another five in the Champions League.
Signing a player of Dybala’s calibre would solve a lot of problems for Manchester United next season, giving them a threatening player regardless of who surrounds him, a player to share the creative burden with Paul Pogba if he stays, or to replace the Frenchman’s creative burden if he moves to Spain.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has placed his intent upon two main formations and systems and Dybala would add plenty to both. In the 4-2-3-1 used against smaller sides, he has often questioned the possibility of playing Pogba in a deeper role, which would allow Dybala to be deployed in front of him. Alternatively, in the 4-4-2 diamond that has also often been used, the former Palermo star could play in any role in the front three with Pogba as the left-sided central midfielder.
Should Pogba leave, Dybala’s ability to consistently exceed 20 direct contributions to goals given consistent first-team football would, at the absolute least, relieve the burden that the World Cup winner would leave behind in terms of his offering of goals and assists.
Dybala’s potential signing also faces many criticisms, mainly that United should be focused on the recruitment of players desperate to play for the club, and a name of the Argentine’s calibre does not fit in the Europa League, bringing the motivation behind his signing into question.
Another criticism is that the player has drifted in and out of matches this season and would add to the inconsistencies with which United currently struggle, but this is not a problem if Solskjaer has a particular tactical plan for Dybala, who is good enough to be a central talent for one of Europe’s top sides.
Castles is often slated for his unreliability but gained many ties to United over recent seasons due to his affiliation with José Mourinho. What is for sure is that, if the rumours are true, Dybala wants to be at United and Solskjaer wants him to bolster his attacking options, there are very few more exciting signings out there.