Manchester United are monitoring Ajax youngster Ryan Gravenberch, The Mirror reports.
Gravenberch has just broken into the Ajax side as a regular, aided by Donny van de Beek’s departure to Old Trafford.
The 18-year-old started for the Dutch club in the Champions League this week, his sixth appearance of the season.
The teenager has two assists so far and ranks inside the top seven players for Ajax this season for each category of tackles, interceptions, and key passes.
Gravenberch has also made the shortlist of the final 20 players for this year’s Golden Boy award along with Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho, and Mason Greenwood.
United’s interest in landing Gravenberch is understandable – but this is one to have plenty of reservation on.
Gravenberch extended his contract in June, to run through until 2023.
It does not fit Ajax’s strategy to sell their top young talents early if they can help it, and they are in control of Gravenberch’s future.
Teams have two choices, either sign the players at around 16 like United did with Ajax forward Dillon Hoogewerf last summer, or wait until they reach Van de Beek’s age, 23, to move.
Ajax like to see their young talents contribute to their team first before selling them, believing they are best served staying put.
It’s hard to argue they are wrong, considering the slow start Van de Beek has had at Old Trafford. Why would Gravenberch fare any better right away?
Ajax will no doubt be keenly making this point to Gravenberch if United’s interest became serious.
There are exceptions sometimes. Matthijs de Ligt was sold at 19, but this was only after he had helped Ajax to win a title and reach the Champions League semi-finals. He also sold for a club record fee.
Davinson Sanchez was sold after just one season too to Tottenham, at a handsome profit. He had spent just a year at Ajax and the club were less set on keeping him as he had not come through the academy.
In short, Ajax will feel Gravenberch has plenty more to offer them now, and it’s hard to argue that.
If he continues his development, big moves will come his way in the future regardless, as Van de Beek has demonstrated.
United were reportedly monitoring Van de Beek as far back as 2015, The Mirror reported at the time. Like Gravenberch now, he was 18.
It is good to see United have their finger on the pulse regarding top young players in Europe, but this is not a deal which is easy to do now. Instead it’s a case of eyeing him for the future.
An extra complication
There is one extra complication with Gravenberch which could make a move to United unlikely.
Gravenberch’s agent is Mino Raiola, who represents Paul Pogba and has been difficult to deal with.
United backed off Erling Haaland amid Raiola’s demands, while also missing out on De Ligt, another player he represents.
This is not an insurmountable obstacle. Relations with Raiola and United appear to have smoothed over a little this year, but looking at his involvement, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that this makes the club’s chances of landing Gravenberch any easier.
To make it happen now, United would have to pay Ajax a substantial fee in the £60-70 million range, with Raiola likely getting his usual cut too.
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