Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is planning a sensational £145 million double swoop for Atletico Madrid duo Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez in the summer. Both the players have been crucial in Atleti’s rise to prominence over the past two years under Diego Simeone but Griezmann is being linked with a move to Old Trafford for quite some time now and the 22-year old Niguez has emerged as a target for the Mancunians to replace the ageing Michael Carrick in the summer.
Carrick has been the mainstay in the midfield for United for quite some years now, and despite turning 35, he has continued to prove his worth this season with some excellent displays at the base of the three-man midfield. However, his contract is set to expire at the end of the season and with no talks of renewal has begun yet, his future at Old Trafford remains uncertain.
And with Morgan Schneiderlin also headed towards the exit doors, Jose will be left with just three options in the midfield in Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini. And given Mourinho’s reluctance to provide opportunities to the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Sean Goss, a new deep-lying midfielder is a must-have for the Red Devils.
Saul Niguez is a versatile customer who has donned various roles for the Los Rojiblancos in the past. A central midfielder by trade, the 22-year old is quite adept at playing out on the wings and has also shown his capabilities in a deeper midfield role for Simeone’s men.
He has mostly been used as a No.8 for Atletico this season, with Gabi occupying the deepest role of the midfield enforcer and Saul has impressed with his displays in the middle of the park. He brings a sense of stability to the midfield and has demonstrated his abilities both in attack and defence, averaging a pass success rate of 79% while having made 26 interceptions in his 13 La Liga appearances.
A good reader of the game and an astute tackler, Saul’s combative nature in the midfield provides the necessary tenacity in the midfield while he has also shown he can act as the link between the attacking and the defensive thirds of the pitch. At only 22, Saul has earned rave reviews for his performances in the middle of the park and has drawn comparisons with Sergio Busquets, who is one of the best defensive midfielders in the game currently.
At such a tender age, Saul has shown immense maturity and mental strength and his excellent work rate is something that deserves great plaudits. Always working for his teammates, the Spaniard isn’t afraid to launch into tackles or make last-ditch blocks. His abilities with the ball at his feet were at full display in the Champions League group stages this year when he bamboozled past a horde of Bayern Munich players before slotting the ball past Manuel Neuer to score for Atletico.
Technically sound, highly versatile – Niguez has even played as a centre-back in his formative days; and an all-round performer, Saul may not be an exact like-to-like replacement for Carrick, but his defensive nous combined with the bucket loads of energy and no-nonsense, tenacious approach could very well make him into the perfect midfielder for Mourinho and United.