Regardless of whether or not he secures a top four finish this season, Louis van Gaal will be facing an extremely tough summer transfer window.
I’ll admit that from the outside looking in he appears to be gearing up for anything but. He’s got more money than he can probably spend, the bonus of being one of the most distinguished gaffers left in the game and of course Manchester United’s glowing reputation on the global scene.
Vital summer for LVG
And yet this summer promises to be more difficult for him to impress in than the last one was, purely because the ground underneath Old Trafford isn’t shifting uncontrollably. When Van Gaal first arrived he would have been in his rights to sign virtually anyone he wanted in a bid to steer the ship.
Now that things are stable, and normality has essentially been restored, arrivals are going to be subject to all the usual critical checks and media scrutiny that last summer’s buys weren’t.
Don’t misinterpret that as a dig at any of the players Van Gaal bought with his first transfer kitty as United manager. Sure, Radamel Falcao may have been a flop, but any football fan worth his salt would have predicted that his was a venture sure to succeed.
This is more something to bear in mind when the feasibility of certain transfers is discussed. Van Gaal might have the weight of coin-filled coffers at his back, but the more money he spends the more expectant the fans and the board will be. Managers like the Dutchman don’t get to where they’re at by acting like a 15-year-old whose cheated on Football Manager, if you get my drift.
With that thought now lodged in your brain I’ll wheel out a transfer rumour that’s steadily making its way around the mass media, one that suggests Nicolas Otamendi is once more a target for United ahead of a summer wherein Van Gaal will surely look to bolster his back-line.
Red Devils fans should be nicely acquainted with the Argentine thanks to the deluge of speculation over the course of the last two summer transfer windows. When he was bossing the back four at FC Porto he was said to be wanted by David Moyes and now that he’s doing the very same with Valencia Van Gaal has decided it’s his prerogative to chase him.
If the rumours are true then there’s very little to be apprehensive about in terms of his quality. The 27-year-old is adequality qualified to marshall an elite defensive unit, and he’s proven at more than one top European club now that consistency is an asset well woven into his game.
Admittedly his name doesn’t carry quite the weight of Mats Hummels’, and he isn’t in the same bracket as centre-backs like Thiago Silva and Vincent Kompany, but Otamendi is a player will plenty to offer, and at a time when first-class defenders are difficult to come by Van Gaal could do much worse.
The sticking point, which will bring United fans back down to earth with a hearty thud, is the fact that he has a release clause embedded into his contract at Valencia worth £37 million. In a world where football players come and go for increasingly nonsensical figures one has to wonder; can a defender be worth nearly £40m?
It’s a question Van Gaal is going to have to ask himself before he even thinks about parting with aforesaid sum. Perhaps he has already, perhaps he has reached the conclusion that it’s a fair amount of money to pay for someone who might offer the solidity his inexperienced back-line are crying out for.
But I think not.
The major flaw
The only argument one can really use to quantify United splurging £37m on Otamendi uses David Luiz’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain as a measuring stick, and the less said about the value for money the French champions got in that transaction the better.
Without going into the ups and downs of a potential switch that would see Otamendi land at Old Trafford you get the feeling it’s a non-starter; he simply costs too much for what he brings to the table.
Were Van Gaal to opt to place his faith in the former Porto man he’d be essentially putting himself in a lose/lose situation. Even if Otamendi were to become an reliable first-team regular with the Red Devils he’d still have cost the equivalent of half a hundred million euros, and if he didn’t hit the ground running the knives would be out for Van Gaal quicker than he could get his legs in gear to run away.
If he were manager of cross-town rivals Manchester City such risks would be fine to take. The acquisition of Eliaquim Mangala, who cost a handsome £32m, hasn’t gone nearly so smoothly as Manuel Pellegrini might have hoped, but it’s been ushered under the carpet anyway. Simply a deal that didn’t work out.
At United things are done differently, and with the expectant eyes of the world on his every outlay Van Gaal will know gambling in the transfer market is something he cannot afford to do, regardless of his budget.
United fans, do you agree? Do you think Otamendi would be worth £38m? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments box below...