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If Manchester United fail to beat Real Madrid or Liverpool to the signing of Jude Bellingham this summer, there are only a select few worthwhile central midfield targets left on the table. The Red Devils are expected to dip into the market for reinforcements in the middle of the park as Erik ten Hag seeks to sign a partner in crime for Casemiro.
Fred’s long-term future remains unclear and extra depth is required if United wish to bridge the gap on Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Declan Rice is a player of interest but his qualities are too similar to the skillset of Casemiro and Frenkie de Jong has already highlighted that he intends to remain at Barcelona for the foreseeable future.
Moises Caicedo is a target that ticks multiple boxes but any club that wishes to sign the Ecuadorian from Brighton will have their work cut out negotiating with the stern Seagulls after the 21-year-old recently inked a new long-term deal at the Amex.
The box-to-box sensation has everything required to play the No.6 and No.8 roles at the highest level which is why United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all interested in acquiring his services.
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But for United, there is an element of frustration at what might have been given they snubbed the chance to land Caicedo for a mere £4.5million fee before his move to Brighton in February 2021.
The Athletic have even reported that United reached out to former captain Antonio Valencia for a reference on the player, who had been making waves in South America with Independiente del Valle.
Despite a glowing recommendation from Valencia, United distanced themselves from the move despite holding formal discussions and negotiations.
Instead, they left the door open for Brighton to pounce as the Seagulls beat the likes of RB Leipzig and AC Milan to Caicedo’s signature.
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It means should they now wish to launch a move for the Brighton starlet, they will have to get over the sense of regret that could plague any transfer deal.
Brighton are highly likely to demand a premium fee that could exceed £80m – meaning United have effectively overspent by £75m given they could have signed Caicedo for just £4.5m.
It’s a big ask and there is every chance United could take the stubborn approach and instead explore other targets to shelve the embarrassment of fumbling the bag.
Caicedo is still young at just 21 and he has a long career ahead of him. Any fee would surely be repaid over time but would also highlight the glaring flaws in United’s recruitment strategy.
The club have shown a willingness to invest in young talent particularly under former boss Solskjaer having signed both Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri on transfer deadline day in October 2020.
United forked out a whopping £37m including add-ons for the Ivorian winger who is currently on loan at Sunderland and despite his impressive campaign in the Championship, it is hard to see the Red Devils being able to recoup that fee if they were to sell.
It’s an area where United – like others – must improve as the likes of Brighton and Brentford continue to lead the way in the transfer market with savvy, cost-effective purchases.
Selling Caicedo would be another huge win for Brighton having already overturned huge profit on the likes of Marc Cucurella and Ben White in previous transfer windows.
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