Manchester United are reportedly looking at AS Roma's Kevin Strootman as a potential addition to their squad, but Louis van Gaal is making the smart decision in waiting to see how the situation plays out.
The Dutch manager recently said he was monitoring Strootman's recovery from a severe knee injury. Following Saturday's friendly between both teams, Roma's Rudi Garcia responded by telling reporters that his star midfielder would be available for a "three-digit offer" (meaning at least €100 million, or £79 million) and that his recovery was going just fine:
What can I say about the rumours (about Strootman joining United)... Maybe after a three-digit offer (i.e. 100 million euros), then we will sit down and think about it. Kevin is following a normal recovery programme. He is fine. He will start running soon.
Obviously, Garcia wasn't being serious. No club would pay £79 million for an injured player with limited experience on a top level. But the message was simple: At this point in time, Roma are not looking to sell.
The Giallorossi's reluctance to move Strootman (or any top player, for that matter) is understandable. The once-proud club struggled through much of the past decade but has returned to the top of Italian football since a financial takeover was completed in 2012.
The squad is young, exciting and talented, and they finished the 2013-14 season with a club record 85 points. Somehow, that didn't net them the Italian title, thanks to the dominance of Juventus, who shattered the Serie A record by recording 102 points.
The upcoming season could be Roma's, however, with the Bianconeri in turmoil following the exit of Antonio Conte. AS Roma have a golden opportunity to win their first Serie A title since 2000-01—now is not the time to sell.
Any negotiations with Garcia and Company for the signature of Strootman would lead to the Red Devils overpaying, and Van Gaal knows it. Even if the powerful midfielder was healthy, Van Gaal would still be cautious moving forward.
Several pundits don't see Strootman's injury as a deal-breaker. Sky Sports' Peter Hall reminded fans of another Dutch star who joined the club after a lengthy spell on the sidelines:
Ruud van Nistelrooy was set to complete an £18.5 million transfer to the club in the summer of 2000 before rupturing ligaments in his knee. The striker took his time returning from the injury and was far from his best a year later, when the Red Devils completed the transfer—for £19 million.
Van Gaal's decision to monitor Strootman's recovery and decide on a potential transfer at a later stage is about more than just the injury. This is 2014, after all—most players return from their first serious knee injury in a timely fashion and go right back to pre-injury form.
Roma's valuation of Strootman is high. The club is ambitious and believes in its ability to finally get past Juventus in 2014-15. Strootman hasn't played meaningful football since March and wants to focus on getting healthy first. Right now, the odds are stacked against the Red Devils.
But much can change in six months. Juventus could go into the January transfer window with a nine-point lead. Strootman could suffer a setback in his recovery, or he could return soon enough to be at his best in January and realise that United still represent quite the step up over Roma.
Once a player demands a transfer, he's as good as gone. And it's not going to cost his new club €100 million. Without the distractions of European football and a much-improved squad, the Red Devils have every chance of being at or near the top of the Premier League in six months, profiling themselves as a top destination once again.
Patience is key with Strootman, and Van Gaal has been coaching long enough to know it. By not talking about the midfielder too much and biding his time, the Dutch manager is playing this situation to perfection.