Manchester United’s chances of doing a deal for Amadou Haidara before the transfer deadline have shot up after Mali were eliminated from the African Cup of Nations.
Mali were knocked out of the tournament at the last 16 stage on penalties by surprise package Equatorial Guinea.
It means Haidara will now return to his club RB Leipzig immediately, instead of playing in the quarter-final on January 30.
This makes a deal for the midfielder a lot more logistically feasible, if United wish to pay up.
The Times reported in December that Haidara was an early target for United interim boss Ralf Rangnick to lead his pressing style of play, while the club’s need for a new midfielder is well documented.
The Mali midfielder was signed for RB Leipzig by Rangnick, who told Bundesliga.com he regarded Haidara as ‘absolutely exceptional’.
The midfielder has a £33 million release clause in his contract, but The Mail report this only becomes active in the summer.
There may still be a deal to be struck before the deadline, it just won’t be as simple as activating his clause. United will have to negotiate, which is often far from simple.
The prospect of playing for United is likely to appeal to Haidara, who is a self-confessed Red Devils fan who idolised current star Ronaldo.
Speaking to Sport BILD just last month, Haidara said: “Everyone had a favorite team as a child. Mine was United. I was a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, liked Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra, Edwin van der Sar, Anderson.”
United get a lifeline for a possible deal
United fans have been hoping all month that a deal gets done. The club have not acted so far, and may simply be waiting on a new manager in the summer.
Haidara is the one player who has been most consistently and most strongly linked, and his past connection to Rangnick makes him a midfielder the manager may insist on, hoping he can come in and make an instant impact this season, while also being a savvy long-term buy.
The midfielder’s involvement at the AFCON always put the deal on the backburner, and after topping their group which included Hannibal’s Tunisia, Mali were fancied to reach at least the quarter-finals.
The nation’s surprise last 16 elimination sends Haidara home early, and at least opens the door to a potential deal before Monday’s deadline.
The smart money would still be on United sitting squat and doing nothing, but there is at least a stronger chance of a Haidara deal happening than there was 24 hours ago.
Haidara did not take part in the shootout, featuring for 107 minutes into extra-time, after a battling display in which he made three interceptions and created two chances in humid conditions.
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