Manchester United’s transfer shortlist currently reads very similar to Ajax’s squad. New manager Erik ten Hag is predictably being linked with buying several of the stars who helped him become successful in the Netherlands.
The latest player linked is Lisandro Martinez, Ajax’s player of the year, with The Telegraph tipping United to move for the centre-back, who just won the club’s player of the year award.
So with Martinez potentially on the way to Old Trafford, we have taken a closer look at what the 24-year-old defender has to offer, and why he could become a real cult hero at Old Trafford.
‘The butcher of Amsterdam’
One of the common complaints about Manchester United’s centre-backs is that they are ‘too nice’, and lack the combative qualities once showcased by title-winning warrior Nemanja Vidic.
One of Martinez’s nicknames is ‘the butcher of Amsterdam’, which in itself suggests he is the style of battling defender the Red Devils need.
Asked about this moniker, Martinez earlier this season told NOS: “That will be because of my playing style.
“The way I go into duels. I never let a ball run and if I have to go over corpses, I do it.”
Ajax signed Martinez in 2019 from Argentine top flight side Defensa y Justicia, seeking a replacement for Matthijs de Ligt.
He has not disappointed, playing a key role in Ajax’s title success the past two seasons, and recently winning the club’s player of the year award – which is a good achievement for a centre-back in a team which scored 98 league goals.
Martinez is also ambitious, earlier this year he told AD.nl, ‘I want to be the best in my position’.
A move to the Premier League could then appeal to Martinez, where he would raise his profile and test himself against some of the world’s best strikers.
He shut Haaland down
Martinez has already showcased his talent against new City striker Erling Haaland, keeping a clean sheet against him this past season in a 4-0 victory.
Haaland managed just a 6.15 WhoScored rating, with Martinez (7.9), winning four tackles, four interceptions, and making five clearances.
The Norwegian did not play in the other Champions League group game, which Ajax won 3-1.
One perceived downside to Martinez is that he is ‘just’ 5ft9″, but he does not let his hold him back. He averages 3.3 aerial duels won per game, the second highest in the Ajax squad behind Sebastien Haller.
It is also superior to the United squad, with Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire highest on 2.5 aerial duels won per game.
What else you need to know
Left-footer: Martinez is a left-footed defender, which could offer United extra balance at the back.
Ajax’s bargain: Ajax paid just £6.3 million to sign Martinez. Now they could sell him for four times the price.
No reds: Despite his ‘butcher of Amsterdam’ nickname, Martinez plays hard but fair. He has never been sent off for Ajax.
Vacant number: Martinez wears the number 21 shirt for Ajax, a number which is currently vacant at Manchester United.