Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward has confirmed the Red Devils have the financial strength to make a world-record signing this summer, but he admits the club won't "throw money around" for the sake of it.
United have already spent in the region of £56 million on Ander Herrera (£29 million, per Simon Stone of BBC Sport) and Luke Shaw (£27 million, reported by BBC Sport), but the Red Devils are expected to continue strengthening under new boss Louis van Gaal.
Woodward insists the club can go beyond this for one player and have the capability to trump the £85.3 million spent by Real Madrid to acquire Gareth Bale last summer, reported by David McDonnell of the Mirror:
Of course it’s within our capabilities. Are we afraid of doing that? No.
The reality is that we’re not afraid of spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market.
Whether it’s a record or not doesn’t really resonate with us. What resonates is that a top, top, elite player, that the manager wants, is going to be a star for Manchester United.
Woodward also claimed he negotiates "hard" when the manager outlines a target but insisted "there is no budget" holding United back.
He described a "very strong financial position," one that is aided heavily by the record-breaking £750 million contract recently signed with Adidas, a sum that is sure to prop United up over the next decade, per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian.
Realistically, there are no players available who would trump the record transfer fee. The likes of Bale, Neymar and Luis Suarez are unavailable after recently moving, while Lionel Messi is likely to remain at Barcelona for the remainder of his career.
Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps the most likely and would cost less than the £80 million Real Madrid spent to take him from United in 2009 due to his age. None are realistic transfers, however.
Potentially United's most expensive signing of the summer is Arturo Vidal, who continues to be linked with the club. Even so, a reported fee of around £35 million wouldn't trump the club record spent on Juan Mata in January, which comes in at £37.1 million, per the Daily Mail's Simon Jones.
Paul Pogba's name continues to be touted with a return to the club, although Vidal appears more likely.
Pogba would cost in the region of £60 million, reported by Daniel Taylor of the Guardian. It is more likely Van Gaal lands a number of targets over the expensive French midfielder right now, as he needs both numbers and versatile quality during his first season in charge.
Darren Lewis of the Mirror questions Woodward's decision to suggest United can afford anyone:
Van Gaal revealed he wants time to review the squad before bringing in new players, per Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News. This is sure to make many United fans anxious, as potential targets are snapped up elsewhere while the boss works on pushing the deadwood away.
At this point, fans need to trust both Van Gaal and Woodward to allow themselves enough time to land the right acquisitions.
Many will point toward last summer's embarrassing run of transfer mishaps, led by Woodward and David Moyes, but it's difficult to ascertain exactly who was to blame for missing out on top stars such as Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Sami Khedira.
Woodward has begun to prove himself with the quick signings of Herrera and Shaw, but his ability to secure the aforementioned deal with Adidas is his greatest achievement so far. He certainly gained maximum value when numbers of £600 million and above were originally reported, providing United with leeway now they aren't in the Champions League.
It would be extremely surprising to see the club spend £80 million-plus on one individual this season—there's not really a market for it right now—but a transfer of around £40 million is likely.
United have lost legendary stars such as Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra from the playing staff over the summer, meaning marquee names are needed.
Woodward has spoken a good game, but now it's time to prove he has the diligence and funds to back it up.