Man Utd have two strikers in mind to succeed Cristiano Ronaldo, and signing one could result in an already completed deal being hijacked before a ball is kicked, per a report.
Ronaldo’s second spell at Old Trafford looks increasingly unlikely to stretch beyond two seasons. The 37-year-old is under contract until the end of the season, though Manchester United do hold an option for an extra 12 months.
However, his well documented antics and ill discipline have raised questions as to whether he’s worth the hassle at this stage in his career.
If Ronaldo is fit and firing – as he was last season – he’s always like to be given leeway. However, his record this season stands at just three goals in 15 matches.
That is a dismal return for the Premier League’s highest paid player. What’s more, there’ll always be doubts over his suitability to Erik ten Hag’s high intensity system.
A January exit continues to be touted with both the club and player seemingly on board with severing ties. Ronaldo would favour a team that can offer Champions League football if he does depart.
Now, the Telegraph report Man Utd are ‘preparing for life without Ronaldo’ after prioritising a new centre forward as their primary focus in the transfer market.
Striker first, right-back second
A new right-back to provide competition for Diogo Dalot and potentially push Aaron Wan-Bissaka out is also wanted. However, it’s claimed the striker need is more pressing and will be ‘next’.
Whether that comes in January or the summer remains to be seen. The wording of the Telegraph’s article does strongly suggest a new striker is next, meaning if one isn’t signed in January, no other positions will be addressed either.
Ten Hag will certainly hope that isn’t the case, and the report details two high profile targets on the club’s radar.
Firstly, Slovenian frontman, Benjamin Sesko, is named.
Sesko following Haaland course
The 19-year-old already stands at an imposing 6ft 5in tall and is drawing comparisons with Erling Haaland given his career path.
Sesko currently plies his trade for Austrian side RB Salzburg, though has already agreed a switch to Germany for 2023.
Sesko will join RB Leipzig for around £21m next summer, with the fee only so low because of the connection between the two Red Bull clubs.
However, the Telegraph suggest Man Utd – who were interested in Sesko last summer – could hijack the move before he ever plays a game for Leipzig.
It would take a ‘significant’ bid to pull off the audacious coup, though United are never a club troubled by financial constraints.
Sesko is ‘widely admired’ by those at Old Trafford and as such, it’s stated United are prepared to ‘play the long game’ for Sesko.
The inference there is they’d be willing to wait until next summer – or beyond – to land a player who is destined for big things. Aged only 19, time is clearly not against Sesko right now.
The report concluded he could cost upwards of £40m to snatch from Leipzig, though his value could easily soar between now and future windows.
He only has six goals in 24 matches this term, but all the raw materials that go into making a top class striker are there.
90min reported similar to the Telegraph back in early October with regards to hijacking Leipzig’s deal.
If Sesko’s value does rise above £40m and up towards £50m, Leipzig may well be tempted into doubling their money on a player without having to lift a finger.
Second target can make instant impact
The second striker on United’s radar is Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic.
The 22-year-old was heavily linked with Arsenal last January, though ultimately moved to Turin for €70m (approx. £61m) prior to add-ons.
Vlahovic has operated at around a goal every other game since joining Juventus, though that’s not stopped the Italian giant from slumping.
They dropped into the Europa League after picking up just three points in Champions League Group H. Their domestic form has fared little better, with Juve currently languishing in eighth.
It’s reported a failure to qualify for next season’s UCL could prompt Juventus into a fire-sale. Vlahovic is one of their most saleable assets and would be among the lead contenders to raise cash.
He’d represent the more ready-made option and is clearly further along in his development than Sesko. However, he’ll also command a higher fee and may have a lower potential ceiling given how highly Sesko is rated.
Regardless, it now appears Ronaldo will not be leading the line beyond this season, one way or another.
READ MORE: Exiting Man Utd winger confirms Ronaldo claim is true; breaks silence on Ten Hag and new attacker who’s displaced him
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