Harry Maguire’s big £80 million move to Manchester United remains the world record fee for a defender.
For the money spent, it is hard to feel United have value for money. Maguire’s form has flat-lined, and the club captaincy is adding to the pressure. If only anybody saw this coming?! Funnily enough, concerns over spending £80 million on the Leicester centre-back were widespread.
Not only could the money have been better spent on multiple positions, but there were many other viable options United could have bought to strengthen the backline.
Back in the summer of 2019, we published an article titled ‘10 Maguire alternatives for Manchester United to consider‘ – proving there were credible options to the England international, if United were prepared to think outside the box.
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Approaching three years on we are going to revisit the list of Maguire alternatives and see if any of these deals would have been better recommendations after all…
We wrote: “His performances in the UEFA Nations League finals outshone Matthijs De Ligt as he helped Portugal to victory.”
Where is he now: Dias was signed by Manchester City from Benfica in 2020 for £65 million, and he went onto play a key role in their title win last season, winning player of the year awards.
Verdict: This would have been a far smarter deal than signing Maguire. Dias was cheaper and he is the better players of the two.
We wrote: “At just 21, he is only going to get even better and is an exciting prospect”
Where is he now: Milenkovic remains at Fiorentina and has gone onto make more than 150 appearances for the club. He is set to head to the World Cup with Serbia later this year.
Verdict: Milenkovic would have cost half the price of Maguire and would have enabled United to make some other signings in 2019 too. It could have been a smart move.
We wrote: “Koulibaly would be the most expensive, possibly costing even more than Maguire. The Senegal defender might just be worth it.”
Where is he now: Koulibaly remains a Napoli player, with the Serie A side’s high asking price keeping him at the club. He won the AFCON earlier this year.
Verdict: If you are going to spend £80 million, you should make sure it is spent on the best player possible who is worth the money. Koulibaly was worth the fee, Maguire was not.
We wrote: “Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake is one of the Premier League’s most underrated centre-backs.”
Where is he now: Ake was another player signed by Manchester City for £40 million. While he has not always started regularly, he is a key squad player, making a valuable contribution in the win over Atletico.
Verdict: City spend a lot, but they do it wisely. They signed Ake and Dias for a combined £105 million, while United sign Maguire for £80 million. The Dutchman could have been a shrewd addition.
We wrote: “RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is considered one of the world’s best youngsters. He would certainly fit United’s philosophy to get younger and better at the position.”
Where is he now: Bayern Munich signed Upamecano for around £40 million last summer.
Verdict: Upamecano had a shaky final season at Leipzig and has kicked on at Bayern again this season. Still only 23, Bayern made a great investment, while United signed Maguire for double the price, and he is already 29.
We wrote: “Konate has the potential to be world class and this sort of deal would be smarter than overpaying for Maguire.”
Where is he now: Despite an injury plagued couple of seasons in Germany, Liverpool saw his potential and paid his £36 million release clause last summer, and he has been excellent since joining.
Verdict: Liverpool have proven they know what they are doing in the transfer market and Konate is the latest example. Manchester United are still playing catch-up.
We wrote: “Alderweireld would still be an upgrade on our current options, and weaken a rival.”
Where is he now: Alderweireld left Tottenham last summer and signed with Qatari club Al-Duhail.
Verdict: This is the first clear ‘miss’ on the list of recommendations. Alderweireld would have been signed too late, although, as a short-term option to facilitate more expensive attacking signings, it might have made sense.
We wrote: “At 22, he could be a better longer term investment than Maguire.”
Where is he now: Diop remains at West Ham, where he has lost his place as a regular, starting only 10 Premier League games this season.
Verdict: Diop probably wasn’t the answer for United and West Ham would have asked a high price. Other players on this list would have been better options.
We wrote: “How badly do they want Romelu Lukaku? Antonio Conte is very keen. If United can engineer a swap deal then this would leave us as big winners.”
Where is he now: Skriniar is still an Inter Milan player and he has been key to their success, making 29 starts this season.
Verdict: The 27-year-old would have been an excellent Maguire alternative, combative and inspiring, United fans would have really taken to him, and he would have cost around £50 million.
We wrote: “He’s still only 25 and after only being picked to start 13 league games last season, United could probably get the World Cup winner at the right price.”
Where is he now: Umtiti is still a Barcelona player but they are keen to get rid of him. Injury issues have played a part in him starting just once this season.
Verdict: In view of his injury problems, Umtiti would have been a costly gamble for United. At least Maguire has been reliable and durable.