Manchester United are close to signing Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, according to reports from Spain.
The 25-year-old is considered one of the best central midfielders in the world but his €150 million (£131m) release clause has made him untouchable in the transfer market until now.
However, there have been a number of reports in the last two months linking the Spaniard with a move to Old Trafford and this latest one from Todofichajes.com claims that a fee has been agreed and that a deal is practically concluded.
The deal, however, will only go through if Paul Pogba leaves United.
‘The club is aware that Pogba has many possibilities to leave in the summer and have set their sights on [Saul Niguez] to fill his position’ the outlet claims.
‘According to the information we handle at TodoFichajes, Saúl is very close to becoming a Manchester United player.’
‘The Spanish international has a termination clause of €150M but the economic circumstances surrounding the world of football will reduce his freedom to €80M [£70m].’
‘The negotiations are practically closed and the agreement will be made official at the end of the current season.’
It must be said that Todofichajes is not the Rolls Royce of Spanish rumour sources but when taken in context of previous reports, it is more than possible that there is truth to the report.
This is because of the complicated nature of Saul’s contract, negotiated before third party player contract ownership was outlawed.
As reported here in March, a consortium called Quality Football, led by superagent Jorge Mendes and former United CEO Peter Kenyon, owns 40% of Saul’s contract.
The terms of the agreement stipulate that Atletico would be required to give the consortium 40% of any amount bid for Niguez whether the deal went ahead or not.
This would mean, for example, that the Rojiblancos would have to fork out £28 million to Mendes and Kenyon if they turned down the £70 million that Todofichajes mentions.
The €80 million/£70m figure was also recently reported by AS.com as the amount the Red Devils are willing to offer for Saul, giving further support to Todofichajes’ claim.
The fact is that Atletico can ill afford to turn down an offer of that amount. They are struggling financially and are in danger of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League, as they are currently lying in fifth place in La Liga.
The Spanish club may therefore have reluctantly agreed to the deal, which would net them £42 million and give them wiggle room to operate in the depressed summer transfer market to find a replacement.