Arnau Puigmal has been one of Manchester United’s best players at academy level this season. In just three starts he has four goals and two assists.
Considering his form, it is not surprising to learn of Barcelona’s interest in the 19-year-old, with Sport reporting the ‘outstanding’ talent would be open to a return to Spain.
There is an argument that joining Barcelona would be just as tough for Puigmal than staying put at United. But there will be clubs which can offer the teenager a faster track to regular first team football.
United find themselves in a familiar dilemma with Puigmal, even with his encouraging start to the season.
Puigmal’s contract expires in June 2021, meaning United risk losing him on a free transfer.
What happens next?
United should be putting a new contract offer down in front of Puigmal and urging him to sign it, especially after his promising start to the campaign.
However, with interest in Puigmal already circling, he might be keen to explore his options.
United may ideally want to send Puigmal out on loan in January, to see how he performs in a first team environment.
This past January, United chose not to do so with Angel Gomes, who was in the same contractual position. He could not see a way forward into the first team and chose to leave.
United should consider granting Puigmal a loan on the condition he signs an extension. It may not work this easily of course.
Puigmal has a lot to offer, with an ability to play in both central midfield and at full-back or wing-back.
At the same time, there is not a direct route for him into the United XI right now, with heavy competition for places.
This is why a loan would be in his interests to try and stand out and help his long-term prospects, if a contract agreement can be reached.
Puigmal’s start to the season for the under-23s has been strong and he needs to maintain this. In an injury crisis, there is a chance he could be called upon this season, in a similar way to how Brandon Williams got his breakthrough last year, but a lot would need to go in his favour.
As it stands, the most likely option is that Puigmal will end up following Gomes out of the club on a free in pursuit of first team football. Deji Sotona and Largie Ramazani both also quit Old Trafford by their own choice this past year.
When June 2021 rolls around, it will be four years since Puigmal signed at Old Trafford. He will want to see a first team pathway. It is up to United to provide him one, or the club will face losing him.
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