The imminent arrival of Italian international defender, Matteo Darmian, from Torino is expected to be the first of many new arrivals at Old Trafford over the next two months. The Legnano born full-back is expected to fill the right-back berth which manager, Louis Van Gaal, has struggled to fill during his tenure as United boss, and his signing will fill a hole in the United starting eleven highlighted by Van Gaal at the end of the season. The experienced Dutchman publicly announced his desire to bring a right sided full-back, a centre-half, a holding midfielder, as well as a striker to bolster his side over the off season, so with a deal for right back Darmian in place, which of the players Serie A colleagues may Van Gaal also turn to, to transfer his side into the Barclays Premier League title contenders they are so accustomed to being adorned? Here we take a look at Van Gaal’s prospective transfer dealings in the Southern European country.
Samir Handanovic, 30, Inter Milan
Perhaps when Van Gaal identified his areas of weakness he had not expected Player of the Year, David De Gea, to be pushing for a move back to his homeland and Spanish giants, Real Madrid. Unfortunately for those with ties to the club, the goalkeeper who showed such phenomenal form over the previous year looks sets to complete a move back to the Iberian Peninsula. It seems that the only obstacles to the move are the fee, and Madrid’s willingness to negotiate over Sergio Ramos. If said deal were to go through, Van Gaal would be left with only two senior goalkeepers in Victor Valdes and Anders Lindegaard, with the latter expected to move on to pastures anew due to a lack of opportunities at Old Trafford. With that in mind, the giant Slovenian, Samir Handanovic, might be the perfect addition to Van Gaal’s side. The goalkeeper has consistently impressed for current side, Inter Milan, since a 2012 move to the San Siro, and has established a reputation as something of a spot piece specialist, keeping out 26 of the 57 he has faced since moving to Italy, including 6 in a row last season. The Slovenian may be familiar to English fans after his impressive showing in his sides 3-2 defeat to the Three Lions in Ljubljana, in which he made several world class stops which saw his side unlucky to come away from the game empty handed after a late Wayne Rooney winner. Despite Handanovic arguably a prime candidate to replace De Gea, question remains over whether the player would risk a move to Old Trafford to play understudy to Valdes, who has turned down interest from Valencia to establish himself between the sticks in Manchester. Such a decision would suggest grumblings from the manager that Valdes will play an important role in the upcoming season, and United are more likely to move for a squad goalkeeper, or promote from within. Handanovic is too good to sit on the United bench, so a move is unlikely, but do not be surprised if Van Gaal looks to the Slovenian to bolster his options, and provide world class cover in all areas of the pitch.
Stefan De Vrij, 23, Lazio
Working under Van Gaal with the Dutch national team, and United having possessed an interest in the player under previous managerial tenders, there is a strong possibility that Stefan De Vrij will be a Manchester United player by September 1st. The young Dutchman impressed during his time in his homeland with Rotterdam based, Feyenoord, and secured a lucrative move to capital club, Lazio, only last summer. An impressive season for the Romans saw them secure a place in the Champions League qualifying stages, and De Vrij played a vital role in the securing of such lofty award. The centre half made 29 top flight starts last time out, and his defensive stats mark him out as one of the best performers in the league. Averaging almost 3.5 interceptions and an impressive 6 clearances per game, De Vrij is a dominant force in the heart of defence, and his tackling ability further documents his potential to become one of the leading centre halves in world football. With Louis Van Gaal sure to be aiming for the title and progression through the Champions League, consistency at the back is something he will look to address over the summer, with his side conceding far too many times to be considered serious title contenders. Current defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have struggled with injuries and form over the past few years and Jonny Evans looks set to be shown the door after a series of disappointing outings, so Van Gaal will certainly look to invest in such an important area of the pitch. United’s central defensive issues have been well documented, and with so many injuries providing the Dutchman with plenty of selection headaches, it would come as no surprise to see Van Gaal acquire more than one player in this position. De Vrij may well be one such addition, and although Lazio will be unwilling to sell, every player has his price, and Van Gaal may opt to pull out all stops to acquire a player certain to vastly improve United’s defensive capabilities.
Lucas Biglia, 29, Lazio
A player United have been linked with on and off for several years, Lucas Biglia meets the transfer criteria identified by Van Gaal, as the Argentinian has the holding midfield role nailed down to a tee. The 29 year old made his name in Europe with Anderlecht, and performed so remarkably for the Belgian giants that he was called up to his national side, making his debut in 2011. An impressive feat for a player operating in an arguably ‘smaller’ European league, with the South Americans having the luxury of such a vast pool of talent to select from. Biglia was linked to a number of clubs before opting to join Lazio in 2013, and the player transferred his form to his new surroundings to great effect. Just like De Vrij, Biglia was another standout performer in the side which secured a return to Champions League football, and Biglia will surely tick many of Van Gaal’s holding midfield boxes. Not only does Biglia excel in his defensive responsibilities, averaging almost 4 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game, the player also holds an eye for a pass, with many of Lazio goals resulting from Biglia’s ability to turn defence into attack. Another asset Biglia may bring to the Old Trafford midfield is the intelligent way in which he goes about the game. Despite being identified as a player with a number of fouls to his name, having committed 57 over the course of the previous season, the player has only been carded 12 times over the course of the previous two campaigns, a low total for a player of his position. Although this stat may appear irrelevant, it may be of interest to Van Gaal, as Biglia is able to slow down games with inconspicuous fouls which do not garner much attention from the referee; a trait United lacked last season when under pressure at the back. After reaching the Copa America final this summer, and at the age of 29, Biglia may see this window as his last chance of a big move, and Van Gaal would be wise to make a move for the Argentinian.
Felipe Anderson, 23, Lazio
A series of standout performances in Lazio’s impressive season has seen Felipe Anderson rise to prominence and capture the attention of journalists, fans and managers alike. The 23 year old Brazilian has flourished in Rome, and was statistically the 7th best player in Serie A last season. Ten goals and seven assists in an advanced role marked an impressive return for the player, who also proved his versatility, making appearances in no less than 6 positions over the course of the campaign. Anderson proved his worth in not only the attacking midfield role he is most strongly associated with, but also as an out and out forward. When utilised as a right sided forward, Anderson’s statistics prove phenomenal: 6 goals, 5 assists and a WhoScored.com rating of 8.97 over only 6 Serie A appearances. Such results suggest Anderson to be a devastating attack minded player, spreading fear into the hearts of opposition defenders. Goal scoring prowess, an eye for a pass, as well as consistency are obvious characteristics of Anderson’s game, and 8 WhoScored.com man of the match awards in only 23 starts prove the forward to often be the best player on the park. Anderson has undoubtedly proved himself in Serie A, but does he possess the character to establish a name for himself in the Premier League? United fans are sure to wary of a young Brazilian by the name of Anderson being linked with the club after the failure to live up to expectation by another of the same name whom readers are sure to be aware of. But as with any purchase of a young player making waves in a foreign league, risks exist, and it remains to see whether Felipe is capable of transferring his form to the Barclays Premier League. Despite this, no questions may be asked of the former Santos man’s talent, and if the player were able to harness the undoubted potential he has shown in Italy’s top flight, then we could see a world beater gracing our shores next season.
Domenico Berardi, 20, Sassuolo
Although the youngest player identified in this article, Berardi has the potential to eclipse all before him. The Italian U21 forward was in fine form for his Sassuolo side last season, contributing a remarkable 15 goals and 10 assists, a fine return for such a young player. To further enhance Berardi’s credentials, this was by no means a ‘one-off’ campaign, as the forward recorded similar figures in his break out year in the 2013-14 season. At the age of 20 and with 31 Serie A goals to his name already, there is no doubt that Berardi will be turning heads across Europe, and many managers may see Berardi as an excellent addition who may not only deliver now, but for many years to come. Former A.C. Milan manager and Italian great, Arrigo Sacchi, spoke of his admiration for the player, presenting Berardi as ‘a player of great talent, a modern footballer who plays for the team all over the field’. To be regarded in such glowing terms may place pressure on such youth, but Berardi has no sign of succumbing to his own hype. The Italian public hold high hopes for the young striker, and Berardi looks capable of becoming an Italian great in his own right. The question remains however as to where the player will develop his career, and transform into the star many hope to see. Sassuolo has proven to be a fantastic development ground, but Berardi’s head will surely be turned to rumours linking him with a move away from his boyhood club. Berardi is a natural finisher, and seems to have inherited the killer instinct in front of goal needed to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Despite this, the player is still in the development stage of his career, and to move clubs now would present risk of stagnation on the bench of a bigger club. Manchester United are renowned for the development of youngsters, but with fellow exciting prospect, Angelo Henriquez, being shown the door at Old Trafford before proper chance to impress was offered, Berardi may have reservations about a move to Manchester. Italian players are traditionally more inclined to ply their trade in their homeland, and Berardi may be more open to a move to one of Italy’s traditional powerhouses. Manchester United are in desperate need for a ready-made world class striker, but with the departures of Radamel Falcao and Robin Van Persie, a number of striking spots exist at the club, and Van Gaal will need a couple of additions to partner Wayne Rooney up front. Berardi may well prove to be a feasible addition to the Red Devils squad, and with ability and youth on his side, Van Gaal may offer Berardi the opportunity to become a Manchester United legend.
All of the above players certainly possess the ability to excel in the Premier League, and add a new dynamic to Louis Van Gaal’s squad. What remains to be seen is whether the Dutchman will once again launch a raid upon the Italian top flight, and lure Italy’s best players to be the Barclays Premier League to aid United’s in United’s campaign to once again capture the titles they are so accustomed to claiming.