Over the summer, Manchester United were linked with a number of centre-backs. And many fans were desperate for a new addition at the back.
Among the alleged targets was Dayot Upamecano (the Sun), whose £40million release clause kicks in next summer.
That would be a bargain for someone who is widely regarded as one of Europe’s top centre-backs. Yet United have a player of their own who could be just as good.
Were it not for a series of unfortunate injuries, Axel Tuanzebe could be one of the first names on United’s team sheet now.
Evidence of that came against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, when the 22-year-old gave a master-class and kept some of the world’s best attacking talent at bay.
The only thing holding Tuanzebe back is bad luck and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping it is behind him.
If the youngster can build on his recent outing, and enjoy an entire campaign fit and firing, he could be every bit as Upamecano.
The Frenchman is worth more than that bizarre £40million clause, and Tuanzebe could well be, too.
Of course he needs to significantly add to his 19 first-team appearances. But the talent is there. It bristles from him with every confident tackle or stride forward.
A star in the making
United have signed centre-backs in three of the last four summer windows. Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly have all arrived while Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi have come through the academy.
In short, United do not need to keep throwing money at a problem that may not actually exist.
Luke Shaw is far better as a left-sided centre-back in a three than he is down the flank. While Tuanzebe has proved he can cut it against top opponents.
Interestingly for United, they will soon face Upamecano’s current employers RB Leipzig. And that is another chance for Tuanzebe to prove he can be everything the Frenchman is tipped to become.
If the United prospect comes out on top again, more fans may come round to the idea of putting faith in him rather than signing another alternative.
After all, as cheap as Upamecano may be next summer, Tuanzebe’s own price-tag could rocket with a solid 2021.