Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, Monaco’s Tiemoué Bakayoko and Benfica defenders Nélson Semedo and Victor Lindelöf are prime targets for Jose Mourinho to add to his Manchester United squad in the two transfer windows this year.
Lindelöf is expected to arrive first, in January. The 22-year-old Swedish international comes highly recommended by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who believes he’s “ready for the big clubs” after seizing his opportunity to become a regular in the Benfica first team. The defender’s agent Jorge Mendes is close to agreeing a deal worth as much as £38 million with Manchester United and Benfica. Increased interest from other clubs will motivate Mourinho to move quickly, although United’s original plan was to wait for the summer when a release clause would have made Lindelöf available for €30 million.
The other three players are likely targets for next summer. Griezmann, top scorer for France at Euro 2016, is chief among them, despite the size of the €100 release clause in the new contract he signed in June at Atletico Madrid. But United hope the French forward will be open to a move, given the likely departure of his coach Diego Simeone at the end of the season. Simeone is tipped to join Inter Milan after making the extraordinary decision to shorten his contract at Atletico by two years.
To help the move happen, United will look to take advantage of Griezmann’s close friendship with Paul Pogba, Manchester United’s record-breaking signing last August. That £89 million deal took Mourinho’s transfer spending to £145 million. That figure would more than double if United succeed in signing all four targets.
Bakayoko is valued at £35 million. He’s a powerful midfielder who’s strong and skillful on the ball. He could make a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick, who Mourinho has come to depend on but is now 36. Bakayoko has been key to Monaco’s strong start to the season, and impressive in their two Champions League wins against Tottenham. He faces more English opposition against Manchester City in the next round, and Monaco will be hoping this attracts more attention and offers for the 22-year-old. Chelsea are also interested in signing him.
£25 million is the expected valuation for Semedo, a right-back with pace attracting interest and competition from Bayern Munich. Mourinho is looking to recruit more competition for 31-year-old Antonio Valencia in that position, with United’s other full-back Matteo Darmian likely to leave this year.
Mourinho shares an agent with Semedo and Lindelöf, but wouldn’t be drawn on transfer talk for the players. “Every player in Portugal now is coming to Manchester United,” he said. “A few seasons ago every player from Portugal was going to Chelsea and Real Madrid.”
Mourinho did express a preference for the summer transfer market as “there’s more stability, more time, more choice” than the January transfer window. He hinted that if he buys a player in January it will be just one, not two, three or four. He also suggested that players would only leave Manchester United if they really wanted to go, and he would be happy to keep the squad as it is in January.