Manchester United are preparing for the start of the new Premier League season, as they are set to open the new campaign against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday. But while we are waiting to see Erik ten Hag lead the team for the first time in a competitive match, news surrounding the club continue to mount. In recent days, there was a lot of talk about the players who could leave the club, but also potential new signings the Dutch manager could bring to Old Trafford.
Clearly, Ten Hag’s greatest wish remains Frenkie de Jong. Barcelona midfielder is still targeted by the club, who are getting nervous over whether they will be able to sign the Dutchman. Barca want to see De Jong off, as they need to earn money from his transfer fee, in order to be able to register the five or six players they have already signed this summer. They also owe some money to De Jong in terms of his wages and they are doing their best to sell the player. De Jong himself is not happy with that and he would like to stay at Barcelona, while Man United and Chelsea are pursuing him.
Yet, De Jong’s eagerness to stay at Barcelona has prolonged the whole potential deal and now United are in a situation where they need to have backup plan. They are in serious need of a modern central midfielder which could dictate the rhythm and De Jong fits that perfectly. But since his situation continues to be coplicated, Manchester United have found their backup option in case they do not get the former Ajax man.
That player is Fabian Ruiz from Napoli. Ruiz is a Spanish central midfielder, of similar age to De Jong, but of also similar characteristics. He can control the tempo, he can be the player around which team the team would tick in possession, but he is still different to De Jong. Ruiz is less able to cover the ground the way De Jong can, as he is not so physically dominant off the ball. However, the Spaniard is interesting to United because he can bring the in-possession quality Ten Hag craves, but also because he has entered the last year of his contract at Napoli. This could be a double-sworded edge.
Napoli would probably be eager to sell him and get some transfer fee for the player they could lose next summer. Players are less and less inclined to sign new contracts when they can see out the current ones and it seems Ruiz could be ready to become a free agent in the summer of 2023. The reasoning behind that is not only that then he could get himself a better contract, but more importantly, that he could return to Spain and join the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Whether Ruiz would see Man United interesting enough at this point in time, when he can play Champions League football if he stays at Napoli, it remains to be seen. But from United’s point of view – it definitely makes sense to go after Fabian Ruiz if they cannot get Frenkie de Jong. Whether it will work out is a different question.