Keith Groeneveld confirmed on his Instagram page that he has been handed a trial at Manchester United.
The 16-year-old, who plays for KV Mechelen, will spend time at United’s Carrington training ground next week.
The Sun asked Belgium football expert Irati Prat to run the lowdown on the defender and if the projections are true, United could be about to unearth a gem.
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Prat compared Groeneveld’s physical style to that of Raphael Varane, the Real Madrid defender who is one of football’s most promising talents.
That will please Jose Mourinho. The former Chelsea coach is rumoured to replace Louis van Gaal as Manchester United boss and is a known admirer of Varane, who he brought to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011.
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Groeneveld's Instagram post
The Daily Mail reported in February that Mourinho would want to bring the 22-year-old, who he describes as the “best young central defender in the world”, with him to Old Trafford.
But he may not have to if United sign Groeneveld, who Prat reckons is Varane 2.0.
He has all the attributes
The South African-born defender is a “tall, slender central defender who is physically dominant,” according to Prat, “similar in style to Raphael Varane - and covers much of the pitch.”
Groeneveld, who started out as a midfielder, has been associated with the Red Devils since 2012, when he spent time at their Belgian feeder club, Royal Antwerp. He was part of an exchange programme that saw him visit United’s training ground.
Prat continues: “After Antwerp, he moved to Mechelen where he made the transition from midfielder to defender.
“Since the positional switch, Groeneveld has excelled and was made captain of the Mechelen Under-17s this season.”
United already possess a highly-rated defender in their youth ranks. 17-year-old RoShaun Williams “has the makings of a United captain”, according to the Manchester Evenings News’ Samuel Luckhurst, and excelled in the 3-2 victory over Tottenham that saw United’s Under-21s win the Premier League.
So, at least United can look forward to having a solid central defence in a few years’ time. Louis van Gaal has struggled to find an adequate partner for Chris Smalling, a shame considering United fans used to watch Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic on a weekly basis.
Varane has reportedly grown frustrated with having to compete with Pepe and Sergio Ramos for a place in Zinedine Zidane’s starting line-up but any hopes that might have given Mourinho of sealing a deal for the Frenchman were quashed by Zidane.
“Of course it is normal Mourinho would want to sign Raphael,” the Madrid boss said in February, per Sky Sports.
“He knows him well, he brought him here to the club. But I want Varane to stay in Madrid. He is the future of the club.”