Manchester United have reportedly turned their attention to German midfielder Sami Khedira in their search for help in the centre of the pitch, but the Real Madrid star won't be the key to fixing a midfield that was plagued by inconsistency in 2013-14.
According to Marca (h/t to The Daily Express's Alex Harris), Carlo Ancelotti would be open to the idea of selling a number of players, including the German international. Harris quotes a price tag of £20m for the midfielder, who missed a large part of last season with a knee injury.
However, football insider Jan Aage Fjortoft is being told Marca's report is wrong:
Been told that Khedira is staying at Real Madrid next season— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) June 23, 2014
Khedira was able to return to the pitch just in time for Real's last matches in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League final, a match in which he shone. He has continued that excellent form into the 2014 World Cup, providing Germany with some much-needed calm in the centre of the pitch against Portugal.
Goal's Cristian Nyari was impressed:
Müller obvious MOTM today but Hummels, Lahm, Khedira and Kroos all excellent also.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 16, 2014
His lack of fitness seemed to bother him against Ghana, leading to a premature substitution in difficult circumstances. Khedira could hardly be faulted for his performance, given his lengthy absence from the game due to injury.
Khedira isn't your classic defensive midfielder, using brute force to win back balls and protect the back line. Instead, he uses his excellent vision and positioning to intercept balls being played forward, and he contributes to the offensive output of his team as a proficient passer and setup man.
The availability of the German international this summer is a big question mark. After missing months with an injury, his transfer value has hit a low point. Selling now would make little sense for Real, as the player could easily boost his value during the coming season.
Xabi Alonso has been Los Blancos' most consistent defensive midfielder in recent seasons, and the veteran is slowly reaching the end of a glittering career. While reports of his retirement from the national team turned out to be premature, as he told Onda Cera (h/t to FIFA.com), age will soon start to take its toll on his effectiveness.
Whether Khedira is seen by the club as his natural replacement or not remains to be seen, but it gives Real yet another reason not to sell him.
More importantly, there are a number of reasons why the Red Devils should think hard about making the German their defensive midfielder of the future. His injury history is a major red flag, having never made more than 24 league starts in his career, per WhoScored.com.
Louis van Gaal is looking at quite the rebuild when he gets to work at Old Trafford, and investing in a player with a history of injuries perhaps wouldn't be the best way to start.
Khedira has tremendous size for the position, but he has never been a particularly physical player. He never needed to be—his vision and awareness help him in that regard.
But what United's midfield was missing most of all last year was exactly that—a physical presence. A player like Juventus' Arturo Vidal or AS Roma's Kevin Strootman: excellent technicians who enjoy running over opponents as much as they like scoring goals.
Vidal in particular fits exactly what the Red Devils need. He's one of Juventus' main threats in front of goal, but his biggest value lies in how he protects Andrea Pirlo. The way Vidal uses his physical abilities to boss opponents in midfield is impressive, and his freight-train playing style opens up acres of space for teammates.
Khedira offers similar range in a box-to-box role, but he doesn't carry the sort of physical threat United are looking for at the position, particularly given that the team plays in the Premier League, where officials aren't afraid to allow players to get rough.
In turn, that physical playing style is something a player as fragile as Khedira might not handle very well. At £20 million, its' a significant gamble.
Khedira is an excellent player, and there is no doubt Van Gaal would find a use for a player as versatile as the German midfielder. But right now, at the start of United's rebuild, he isn't the player the Red Devils are looking for. Real have little reason to sell at this particular time, but United have even fewer reasons to buy.