With the Bundesliga the only major European league currently in action during the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us are tuning in to BT Sport each weekend to catch the action. For some, this is their first taste of German top-flight football – and the last two weeks have provided some entertaining games.
Whilst no one is currently sure when the Premier League season will resume, or even when the 2020/21 season will begin, the upcoming transfer window will still be a keenly anticipated period in which all of the major cubs will be looking to do business. At Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be no different to Pep Guardiola, Frank Lampard or Jose Mourinho in wanting to improve his squad and keep moving forward.
The two top priorities at this stage appear to be Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish. Both fit the young, hungry, British player profile the club is pressing ahead with targeting for the rebuild. Both have proven themselves to be key, effective players for their clubs and have the arrogance combined with a team ethic which makes them such attractive propositions for our club.
The Bundesliga is a league which is criminally underrated and is jampacked with an abundance of talent which United should be keeping a close eye on. Aside from Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, with whom we’ve been so strongly linked, I will also discount any players from Bayern Munich as traditionally anyone leaving the Bavarian giants only does so when the club feel they have already given their best years, for example, Bastian Schweinsteiger…
In terms of the attacking areas of the pitch, Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz has been courted by most of the European elite for the past 3 years. Whilst many may only be hearing of the German international for the first time during the pandemic, he has been lighting up the Bundesliga now for some time. Still only 20 years of age, turning 21 in June, he is already a fully-fledged member of the German national side, with 7 caps and 1 goal.
The attacking midfielder, who can also play on the right-wing and most recently as a false 9 in Peter Bosz’s system at the BayArena became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 appearances at 18 years and 307 days old.
This season Havertz already has 10 goals and 5 assists in 24 Bundesliga games, whilst also playing in 5 of Leverkusen’s Champions League group games. He’s added three goals in as many games since Bayer dropped into the Europa League.
Compared in Germany to a young Mesut Ozil, although having a much greater work ethic, he is destined for the very top. Havertz’s versatility across the forward positions make him an attractive proposition for all of the big clubs across Europe with Bayern Munich and Liverpool both heavily linked.
A price tag of £70m+ may put Manchester United in a stronger position than most to secure his signature, with Bayern traditionally not keen on spending vast sums on one transfer. In a way, COVID-19 may well help United.
One of Havertz’s teammates at Leverkusen, Moussa Diaby, is another player who should be watched closely. Graduating from the PSG academy, he found his chances limited at the Parc de Princes as the Ligue 1 champions embarked on a rebuild of their squad last summer. He subsequently moved to North Rhine-Westphalia for £13.5m and the French U-21 international has taken the Bundesliga by storm.
The pacey left-winger has an energetic style which is a trait Solskjaer seems to like. A very similar player to Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, he can play on both the left and right-wing. Should a deal for Dortmund’s Sancho prove too costly or complicated, Diaby could be an astute alternative. He has 4 goals and 5 assists in 21 German top-flight games this season. Whilst Solskjaer may feel the left-hand side, where he predominantly plays, is well stocked at this time, Diaby is certainly one to watch.
At Borussia Monchengladbach, the son of legendary French World Cup winner Lilian Thuram is banging in the goals. With the Bundesliga now famed for giving young players their opportunity on the big stage, Marcus Thuram moved to Germany from Guingamp for £8.1m last summer. The striker, 22 years of age, has 8 goals and 8 assists in 27 Bundesliga games. He has the power and presence which Ole wants as an alternative in the forward positions, which led to Odion Ighalo’s loan deal. One big snag here though is that he is represented by Mino Raiola…
At the heart of defence, Harry Maguire has had an excellent first season at the club, culminating in being named captain. However, this is still an area which can be improved as has been shown with Victor Lindelof recently losing his place to Eric Bailly. With Marcos Rojo seemingly out of the door come the summer, Phil Jones being surplus to requirements and Chris Smalling potentially also leaving the club, there is the potential for a new centre back arriving at Old Trafford. It should be noted however that Ole has every faith in Axel Tuanzebe to make the grade.
A teammate of Marcus Thuram, Nico Elvedi, is very much in the Maguire mould. The Swiss international is very commanding, strong, quick and plays out of defence with ease. He signed for Gladbach in 2015 and is now starting to really attract the attention of all of the big clubs. The centre back can also fill in at right-back and left-back and that versatility can be invaluable.
The right-footed centre back could form an excellent partnership with Maguire, especially as they both have the same attributes and with Maguire preferring the left side of a centre back pairing. The 23-year-old could cost upwards of £25m, but it could be a very shrewd investment.
At Eintracht Frankfurt, another Frenchman is catching the eye. Their big, strong centre back Evan N’Dicka is a very good alternative to the much-vaunted Dayot Upamecano. He is quick and agile and plays in a similar mould to Virgil Van Dijk, in the sense that he reads the game so well and appears to calm those around him. At this stage, however, comparisons shouldn’t be made, as N’Dicka is only 20 years of age.
The Parisian joined Frankfurt from Auxerre, the club famed for bringing through talented youngsters during the Guy Roux era, in 2018. He can also play in central midfield, and has a similar physique to Tuanzebe. Whilst a move for him may be unlikely at this stage, I am sure this is another player Ole and his staff will be keeping a very close eye on…