Jose wants Atletico's Griezmann and Saul

LONDON • Manchester United have targeted two of the top talents of Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid as part of Jose Mourinho's plan to construct a squad capable of returning the Old Trafford club to the summit of the European game.

In addition to France forward Antoine Griezmann, the English Premier League club have expressed their interest in recruiting Spain midfielder Saul Niguez.

Though the pair possess release clauses totalling £145 million (S$258.95 million) on contracts that were renewed last summer and run until 2021, United believe they will be able to negotiate transfer fees down from the buyout figures and are willing to wait for the close season to do deals.

Saul, 22, is an archetypal Mourinho midfielder - tall, athletic and very mobile.

He can play anywhere across the centre of the park and also operate in defence.

  • £145m

  • Total fee Manchester United may need to fork out to activate the buyout clauses for their Atletico Madrid targets - Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez.

Griezmann has delivered 62 Spanish Primera Liga and Champions League goals for Atletico from 118 appearances since joining from Real Sociedad in 2014.

The 25-year-old is regarded as one of the best strikers in world football and is seen as a potential replacement for United forward Wayne Rooney.

Mourinho believes he needs to add a further four or five elite players to return United's playing staff to the level of the Alex Ferguson era.

He must also trim down an overmanned squad and is open to the sale or release of a number of fringe players.

Morgan Schneiderlin, who has attracted interest from West Bromwich Albion and Everton, Memphis Depay, and Bastian Schweinsteiger are available in the transfer window this month.

Though United have avoided publicly discussing their readiness to move Rooney off their books, there is a recognition within Old Trafford that the captain's status as an automatic starter has been lost to fitness and lifestyle issues.

Were Rooney to accept an offer from elsewhere - he has been the subject of hugely lucrative approaches from the Chinese Super League - United would gladly be relieved of the 31-year-old's remuneration.

Central defence is another position that Mourinho wants to reinforce and he could make a move for the Southampton centre-back Jose Fonte.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Jose wants Atletico's Griezmann and Saul'. Print Edition | Subscribe