After enjoying an impressive run with Argentina to the 2014 World Cup final, Marcos Rojo is among the latest names to be linked with a Manchester United switch, the Red Devils having launched a £15 million bid for his services.
That's according to the Independent's Sam Wallace, who suggests that the Sporting Lisbon defender could offer competition to Luke Shaw on the left side of Louis van Gaal's back line.
The Red Devils' defence, and indeed their links to the midfield, have become arguably the most intriguing aspect of life under Van Gaal, representing a big shift to the tactics the squad has been used to in recent years.
That being said, it's no surprise to see Rojo mooted as one who could fit in well with the Dutchman's plans, a left-sided centre-back who can also operate at left-back and further upfield should he need to.
Rob Draper of the Daily Mail reports that the player's quickest sprint time at the World Cup was faster than Arjen Robben's, a remarkable achievement given the Bayern Munich man's renowned pace:
And Van Gaal got a first-hand look at the player's talents during the World Cup semi-final against Netherlands, where Rojo made the second-highest number of tackles (3) and interceptions (3), as well as being third in the clearance stakes (3), per WhoScored.com.
Recent revelations reveal that Rojo wants the move, too, after Portuguese newspaper Record (h/t The Guardian) reported that Sporting Lisbon have disciplined their defender for attempting to force through a move.
Teammate Islam Slimani is also alleged to have been found guilty of the defence, and President Bruno de Carvalho was quoted as saying:
They will not play next weekend. This will take as long as it takes. If something doesn’t change, you’re going to end up with the players seeing out their contracts. They can watch the game on television. On Saturday, against Academica, we will play to win and we will win. There is no player bigger than the club. I would not give up the honour, the club’s history, for the attitudes of anyone.
I give a piece of advice: don’t use the press, be professional. These two, in defence of our magnificent group, must be removed. They are subject to strong disciplinary measures. Both players have taken decisions that have caused sharp indiscipline at Sporting. A message: any player who does not follow the rules of the club can have illusions and pretensions, but with the way these two did things, the situation is just complicated.
In a way, it's disappointing to see Rojo so happily jump ship, not exactly permeating the kind of morals and loyalty that suitors would find attractive in a potential employee.
However, a desire to play for any particular club is also an ameliorating factor, and for Rojo to be so passionate about the move has positive connotations of its own.
It's common knowledge at this point that Van Gaal intends to retain his preferred method of utilising three at the back, with Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling seemingly his default options at this point.
Should United persist in their Rojo hunt?
However, a specialist left foot would be a welcome addition among that bunch, and Rojo's mobility makes him a suitable candidate to come in and operate as an asset capable of quick transition from attack into defence.
The fact that the Sporting star can work effectively closer to the flank is merely an added bonus for Van Gaal. The nature of his wing-back preference means that a variety of options are needed, attackers capable of defending being the priority in some instances, while defenders capable of attacking will fit in others.
United's hopes to sign Rojo are also helped on by the fact that his third-party ownership agreement could pressure Sporting into a sale, per The Sunday Times' Duncan Castles:
In a way, Rojo represents a similar option to that of Thomas Vermaelen prior to his Barcelona transfer, although the Belgian may not have held quite so much promise in a wing-back role.
Squawka shows just how well-rounded Rojo was in Brazil this summer, creating nine scoring chances, just one less than Angel Di Maria—although the Real Madrid man was injured for parts—but also winning 60 percent of all duels.
Under Van Gaal's command, balanced figures will be of essential significance, with certain positions only likely to be occupied by players who offer a little bit of everything.
With that in mind, the prerequisites to becoming a Manchester United centre-back have changed.
Rojo is the kind of athlete who can certainly fit in with the paradigm, and while's he's neither a rock-steady sweeper nor a defensively stringent full-back, he does represent an intriguing and valuable mixture of the two.