José Mourinho is already at work reshaping the squad at Manchester United for next season. Mostly via subtraction. Bastian Schweinsteiger is already gone and Wayne Rooney may well be on his way out. It’s clear that Mou is trying to clear the decks, presumably in advance of some major additions to the roster.
And his main target is a doozy.
It was reported earlier today that United are keen on luring Neymar away from Barcelona. So keen, in fact, that they’re prepared to pay his release clause with no fuss and no haggling. All €200 million. (That’s about £173 million at press time, for those keeping score.)
They’re also reportedly willing to pay him upwards of €25 million (£21.6 million) a year. That’s a hefty sum. Whether it’s enough to convince Neymar, recently seen tearing it up for Brazil, to leave Barcelona is another story.
The club has reached out to the player’s representatives, who seemed open to listening despite Neymar’s lingering reservations. Qualifying for the Champions League would almost certainly be a prerequisite for a move, at the very least. Yet the main issue seems to be pretty straightforward, and probably bad news for Mourinho; Neymar is happy at Barcelona. Given that, it would likely take some major incentives to get him to move to Manchester.
Chelsea are also reportedly interested but aren’t willing to go quite as far as the Red Devils are.
For United, this is a tricky situation. Finishing in the Top 4 is looking like an increasingly outside chance, leaving their best opportunity to play in the Champions League next season being to win the Europa League now. That’s far from a sure thing.
And whether by hook or by crook, United have to have Champions League football next season. Failure to qualify will result in losing nearly 30% of the revenue from their deal with Adidas. Signing Neymar would be expensive, but so would missing out on the Champions League. If they qualify, they’ll at least be back in elite European competition and possibly have some truly world class players back in the squad. (Admit it— Neymar and Pogba on the same team gets you a little excited.) If they fail, it could mean a financial and sporting setback that could take years to come back from.
All this to say— the next two months are absolutely crucial for United.