It is a rumour that has been circulating for a number of weeks. Despite United signing Victor Lindelof last summer, and still inexplicably putting faith in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling last season, it’s evident United are seeking a new centre-half in this transfer window, and one name that continues to crop up is Toby Alderweireld. With good reason, too: he’s a superb and consistent performer, experienced in the Premier League, and would provide the stability and leadership United’s defence needs.
Alderweireld is almost certainly leaving Tottenham this summer. Contract negotiations have fallen apart and, with his release clause automatically dropping to just £25 million next year, Tottenham have reluctantly recognised the need to sell him now, on the proviso prospective buyers meet their valuation.
United are certainly interested. Jose Mourinho has already expressed that he thinks Alderweireld is the best in the league in his position, and he has consistently been a top performer in the Premiership for several seasons. Mourinho isn’t as resistant to youth as the media likes to portray, but at 29 years old, the Tottenham defender falls into Mourinho’s favoured age range (like Nemanja Matic and Alexis Sanchez); a player of vast experience and established credentials who still can offer several years at the top level. With almost 250 appearances at club level, and nearly 70 for his country, he can supply renewed authority to a defence that can, at times, look ragged and disorganised.
It was reported that United, naturally, wanted to conclude the deal before the World Cup, but the chance of that happening now has evaporated, after a difference in his valuation of almost £20 million – United rate him at £50 million while Tottenham consider him to be worth £70 million. Liverpool signing Virgil Van Dijk for £75 million earlier this year will surely play a part in their valuation, and for the deal to go through, it’s more likely that United, rather than Spurs, will be the club forced to adjust their valuation accordingly. Considering how much United want to invest in their squad this year, it remains to be seen how high United will be prepared to go.
With this in mind, alternatives have been mooted – Sevilla’s Clement Lenglet, Raphael Varane of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich star Jerome Boateng – but none fit the bill quite as well as Alderweireld. Signing players from other countries and expecting them to adapt immediately to the Premier League is a tough proposition (even though Boateng briefly had a spell with Man City). United need a strong, powerful defender of poise and experience who can fit into the team straightaway, and the Belgian would be an excellent acquisition in that regard. Considering the player’s contract situation at Tottenham, it feels like the right deal at the right time. The prospect of Alderweireld and Eric Bailly forming a partnership over the next few years is an exciting one, and why I think Mourinho will continue to pursue the Belgian rather than chasing another player. The World Cup may well cause a delay in transfer negotiations, but, for United, and Mourinho, it will be worth the wait.