Soccer

Man Utd eye move for ‘new Lionel Messi’ as transfer alternative to Jadon Sancho

Manchester United are reportedly watching teenage Argentine star Thiago Almada ahead of the transfer window opening as they target an alternative to Jadon Sancho. Almada has scored four goals in seven games for Velez Sarsfield in his home country this season and has been dubbed the new Lionel Messi.

The 19-year-old is on the radar of some of Europe’s top clubs, with United said to be among his suitors after Ed Woodward refused to meet Borussia Dortmund’s £108million price tag for Sancho over the summer.

His idol growing up was Carlos Tevez, who played for both United and neighbours Manchester City, but Almada has drawn more comparisons to Barcelona star Messi.

At 5ft 7ins he has the same low centre of gravity as Messi, while he is known for his dribbling ability and acceleration which ensures he can escape from the tightest of spaces.

Almada also tends to cut infield onto his stronger right foot when playing in wide positions, either to fire towards goal or carve out chances for teammates.

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The teenager was the subject of a £10m bid from Manchester City over the summer, according to the Manchester Evening News.

But City were rebuffed with Velez wanting closer to £16m, and Almada ended up signing a new deal committing him to the club until 2023.

The contract contains a £22m release clause – but if his form continues that won’t deter Europe’s biggest clubs, with Arsenal, Inter Milan, Valencia, and Ajax all interested according to Tuttomercato.

Pablo Cavallero, Velez’s technical secretary, admitted there have been enquiries for Almada.

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He told TNT Sports: “Yes, there are calls. We have received some from club intermediaries, but they are only questions. The difficulty [of selling] or not depends on the offers that come in when the market opens.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could have an advantage, however. The man who gave Almada his debut at age 17 was former Red Devils right-back Gabriel Heinze, who was manager of Velez at the time.

It was Heinze who played the midfielder in a wide position within a 4-3-3 formation, helping him to develop his game.

And with Almada having been aware of interest in him from across the Atlantic ocean, his former manager will no doubt have had positive things to say about a career at Old Trafford, where Heinze won the 2006/7 Premier League title.

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