Manchester United appear set to finish second in the race for Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, after Barcelona were granted permission to pursue the transfer, writes John Drayton of the Daily Mail.
The Germany defender has a release clause of £29.5 million and, having missed out on signing a centre-back in the summer, the Catalan giants are determined to get their man.
According to a report in Bild, Dortmund have given Barcelona permission to proceed with the transfer.
Jack Wilson of the Daily Star also reports on the transfer battle, which sees two of the biggest clubs in Europe battle for the signature of arguably one of the best defenders on the continent:
David Moyes is set to be handed up to £100m to splash out in January to strengthen a squad lacking on world-class talent …
Dortmund have started planning for life without Hummels and are poised to move for Basel's Fabian Schar.
There is no secret as to why both Barcelona and United would be willing to part with £30 million to land Hummels. At the age of 24, he is comfortably one of the most authoritative centre-backs in Europe.
He was the lynchpin upon which Dortmund based their run to the Champions League final last season, making 41 appearances in all competitions for the Bundesliga club, per ESPNFC.
An asset in both penalty areas, Hummels had a hand in seven goals during those appearances, scoring three and laying on another four for his team-mates.
In truth, Barcelona arguably have the greater need to sign the 6’4” centre-back. Hummels isn’t blessed with incredible pace, but he reads a game superbly and—crucially—is a force at set pieces.
Barcelona have a clear weakness when defending high balls into their area, highlighted by their recent home clash with Sevilla. The marking of the Spanish champions was scandalous as they were pegged back to 2-2, only to be bailed out late on following a piece of magic by Lionel Messi.
Carles Puyol is regularly sidelined by injury at the age of 35, making only 22 appearances last term, per ESPNFC. As a result, Gerard Pique often finds himself partnered by central midfielder Javier Mascherano at the heart of the defence.
United already have an enforcer in the shape of Nemanja Vidic and arguably require a ball-playing centre-back to replace the ageing Rio Ferdinand.
A partnership of Vidic and Hummels would look powerful on paper but may lack the necessary speed and technical ability to create the right type of blend in Moyes’ defence.
United’s need for the German would increase substantially if Vidic does not renew his current contract, which expires in the summer, per Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail.
If Barcelona do substantiate their desire to land the player, they surely represent the more appealing option for Hummels, who would face less competition for a starting berth and enjoy a better climate in Spain.