United are already being linked with a select group of strikers for a summer purchase, although the huge question mark over who will be the club’s owners at that stage makes it difficult to predict what sort of ball park they will be in at that time.
If a new owner is not found, nor good partial investment, then given the Glazers’ financial predicament the club will probably be shopping in the bargain basement for free agents – potentially including the likes of Memphis Depay or Youssafa Moukoko.
With partial investment, with the Glazers still holding the reins, or if a “stingy” owner takes over, then up-and-coming young strikers, such as Marcus Thuram, could be the order of the day.
With the debt written off and a healthy bank balance, however, the likes of Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen, Benjamin Sesko and Gonçalo Ramos have been mooted as United’s favored targets. With most of these likely to cost in excess of €100 million, which would represent the best choice?
Sesko represents the longest term and potentially cheapest option with the greatest potential, but also is the biggest risk. He has not even played for RB Leipzig yet since signing from Red Bull Salzburg. He’s not exactly advanced as much as expected this season, scoring just seven goals in 25 games for Salzburg in the Austrian League and none in six in Europe. Compare this with Erling Haaland’s same season at the same club at the same age, and the difference is stark; in 2019/20 he scored 28 goals in 22 games at Salzburg, including 8 in 6 in the Champions League. Sesko is not the same type of player and all footballers develop at different rates, but he is definitely not the finished product yet.
As Scott Eckersley recently wrote in United Matchdaymagazine, Harry Kane is probably a very “thrownable” option this time around. Spurs are almost resigned to losing him as his contract expires in 2024 and they will not want to lose him for nothing. He is obviously a proven Premier League goalscorer – there aren’t many in history who have proven that more – and he is hungry for honours. United might also get a relatively free run at him, at least in England, with City having Haaland, Chelsea looking to add Thuram and Nkunku and Liverpool having signed Darwin Nunez last summer. However, he will be turning 30 and can be injury prone, and is he the kind of player that would fit into Ten Hag’s system or would some adaptation be necessary?
Osimhen looks the real deal and at 24 is arguably the right age for a top striker signing, coming into his best years. Strong, direct and agile, the Nigerian has scored 12 in 14 in Serie A this season in a flying Napoli side. However, we have seen from the likes of Romelu Lukaku that great scorers in the Italian League can’t necessarily replicate that in the Premier League. The other issue is that Osimhen is likely to be the most expensive of the bunch, with Napoli already speaking about a €140 million price tag and president Dino De Laurentiis being infamously difficult to negotiate with.
Benfica’s Gonçalo Ramos is the fourth option. He has been profilic in the Liga Portuguesa this season, scoring 17 in 26, and announced himself on the international stage with a brilliant World Cup hat-trick. He’ll turn 22 in the summer and although Benfica will try for the €120 million buyout fee, there would likely be the chance to negotiate that down, especially if there are few competitors for his signature. He is an intelligent runner and hard worker and arguably the most suited to the type of football that Ten Hag likes to play.
So given all of the above, who should be United’s top target if money is no object? If Ten Hag believes Kane can fit in with his system, he should probably be first choice as a proven world class Premier League striker with potentially another four or five years in him. If Ramos is better suited to Ten Hag ball, he should arguably be the favourite. Osimhen and Sesko could be incredible and in some ways more exciting options, but are probably more of a gamble.
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