Griezmann is top of United's $350m list

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann is wanted by Jose Mourinho to lead Manchester United's attack next season.
Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann is wanted by Jose Mourinho to lead Manchester United's attack next season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Frenchman's hefty release clause unlikely to put off Old Trafford outfit's rebuilding efforts

LONDON • Jose Mourinho wants to sign up to four top players this summer in a transfer spree likely to exceed £200 million (S$355.4 million).

After Manchester United's emotional Europa League triumph over Ajax on Wednesday, the manager is already plotting an assault on two fronts - challenging for the Premier League and the Champions League.

It is understood that Mourinho has told Ed Woodward, Man United's executive vice-chairman, that he needs to sign a defender, a central midfielder, a forward and possibly also a No. 9 given that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out of contract and unlikely to play for United again after rupturing knee ligaments.

Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann tops the list of potential buys while Eric Dier, of Tottenham, and Burnley's central defender Michael Keane are other targets.

United hope that their return to the Champions League will help to persuade Griezmann to leave Madrid for Old Trafford if they activate the £85 million release clause in his contract.

Spurs are reluctant to sell Dier, but the player, who could cost £40 million, is understood to be unhappy at having to play out of his preferred midfield position this season. Keane, who left United for Burnley in 2015 after a loan spell, is close to agreeing a £25 million return to the club.

United have also been monitoring Romelu Lukaku's contract stand-off with Everton.

"Ed Woodward has had my list, what I want, for more than two months, so now it's up to him and the owners," Mourinho said.

"I wish Mr Woodward all the success in his work."

The United manager has not enthused about many of his players this season.

Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all been dressed down for poor displays or an apparent lack of fight.

Mourinho generally likes to operate with a squad of about 23 players. If his captain Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic leave, United will be left with 21 senior players.

That is calculated upon the likelihood that Michael Carrick will sign a contract extension in the next couple of weeks.

And if the quartet of Griezmann, Dier, Keane and Lukaku arrive in an ideal situation, Mourinho will probably sell two more players to get his squad down to 23.

Shaw has arguably come in for the most severe criticism from his manager but the left-back's foot ligament injury is likely to keep him out until after the season begins, making it difficult to sell him in the summer.

Inter Milan are interested in signing Matteo Darmian but Mourinho is a fan of the Italian's versatility across the back four.

The same can be said of Daley Blind, who did himself no harm with a series of excellent displays at centre-back towards the end of the season.

There is almost no chance of Mourinho selling Jones, so that leaves a big question mark over the future of Smalling.

The Portuguese does not rate the defender's all-round game despite his endeavours in Stockholm, where he set up Mkhitaryan's goal.

It would not come as a surprise if Smalling left and Mourinho settled on Eric Bailly, Jones, Keane and Blind as his centre-back options.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Griezmann is top of United's $350m list'. Print Edition | Subscribe