Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Manchester United Lead Real Madrid In Pursuit Of Serie A Centre-Back: Can He Solve Their Issues?

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Pratik Das
The youngest member of The 4th Official and an ardent Premier League fan who is basically obsessed with scouting young talents and is consumed by the idea of finding the perfect number 10.

Recent reports from Italian media outlet Tutto Atalanta (via TheHardTackle) suggest that Manchester United may already have an agreement in principle with Atalanta to sign centre-back Merih Demiral in the upcoming transfer window as Erik Ten Hag looks set to add to his options in defence.

The Turkish defender spent the 2021/22 season on loan from fellow Serie A club Juventus, but Atalanta are expected to trigger his buyout clause once the transfer window reopens to make the move permanent. However, the Bergamo-based club could immediately sell him to bag a hefty profit – similar to the Christian Romero (to Tottenham Hotspur) deal.

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United are currently leading Real Madrid in the race for the defender’s signature.

Having racked up two goals and three assists in forty-two appearances across all competitions, it would be an understatement to say that Demiral made the most of his loan spell at Atalanta. He established himself as an immediate starter for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side and maintained his untouchable status throughout the season by putting on some stellar performances. Although La Dea failed in the pursuit of securing European football, Demiral’s contributions at the heart of the defence – eight clean sheets and countless game-winning defensive actions – cannot be neglected at all.

Atalanta's Merih Demiral
Atalanta’s Turkish defender Merih Demiral goes over Leipzig’s Swedish midfielder Emil Forsberg during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final, first-leg football match RB Leipzig v Atalanta in Leipzig on April 7, 2022. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP) (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)
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This term, the 24-year-old defender put up some awe-inspiring numbers on the board – averaging 1.1 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, 2.3 clearances, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 shots, and 1.6 long balls per 90 minutes in the Italian top-flight (calculated across 28 appearances). Capable of playing as a right-back in the hour of need, versatility is one of his prime strengths.

Can He Solve Manchester United’s Defensive Issues?

Given the present circumstances, signing a quality centre-back should be the board’s first priority once the summer transfer window opens. It’s beyond any doubt that the Red Devils certainly need to upgrade on their options in defence and solve their issues at the back – and Merih Demiral fits the bill perfectly.

A move to the Old Trafford will mean that he instantly competes with Harry Maguire or Victor Lindelof for a position in the starting eleven.

At 24, the 33-times Turkey international will only get better with each season, so it won’t be a complete surprise if United break the bank to secure his signature.

(Stats from WhoScored)

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