An intriguing report has linked Manchester United with a move for Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Zubimendi.
Mundo Deportivo claim United are interested in a deal for the player, who has a release clause in his contract of £52 million.
United boss Erik ten Hag has seen Zubimenda close up twice this season, with the Spaniard on the winning team at Old Trafford in September.
Zubimenda, 23, has one cap for Spain and is currently under contract with Sociedad until 2027, signing a new deal earlier this season.
How Martin Zubimenda fits in
This is where a potential move for Martin Zubimendi gets interesting. On one hand, it could be argued Zubimendi would replace Fred in the squad. The Guardian has reported Erik ten Hag is content to release the Brazilian at the end of the season.
But in terms of profile, Zubimendi is not particularly like Fred. He is a well-disciplined defensive midfielder who anchors Sociedad’s midfield.
Per FBRef, Zubimendi has made more combined shot and pass blocks than any Sociedad player this season, and leads the side for interceptions. He also ranks second for aerial duels won and ball recoveries, and third for overall touches.
He has made 484 passes in the middle third of the pitch but only 77 in the final third, compared to 232 in his defensive third.
Zubimendi is more of a stylistic replacement for Casemiro, and this is a role which may be more valuable to Manchester United than replacing Fred.
Casemiro is an important starter for United but he is also 30, and with United’s season nowadays consisting of 50 plus games per season, in addition to his international involvement, Erik ten Hag needs the freedom to rotate the Brazilian more regularly.
United don’t currently have a proper defensive midfielder who can deputise for Casemiro. Scott McTominay is better in a box to box role.
Zubimendi could become a younger stand-in for Casemiro, while McTominay would effectively become Fred’s replacement if he ends up leaving.
It is crucial United look after Casemiro and don’t overplay him, and it is also simultaneously important to find a longer term solution for the position.
Signing Zubimendi would make a lot of sense, with his best years ahead of him. If Erik ten Hag is impressed and wants to sign him, that’s good enough for us.