Manchester United are reportedly willing to smash the British transfer record to sign Real Madrid star James Rodriguez, as super-agent Jorge Mendes has “alerted” the Red Devils the Colombian could be available.
That's according to Goal (h/t Daily Star's Jonathan Green), who claimed United would be willing to offer more than the £59.7 million they paid for Angel Di Maria for Rodriguez, whose future at the Santiago Bernabeu looks murky following the hiring of new manager Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane kept the Colombia international on the bench in his debut match against Deportivo La Coruna and opted to start Isco, who more than held his own in the 5-0 win.
Alejandro Alcazar of Sport previously reported Zidane was shocked with Rodriguez's conditioning and lack of intensity in training, while Isco has impressed early. Per Goal's Ben Hayward, it marks the second time this season Isco got the nod in the new manager's first match:
Ben Hayward @bghayward
Zidane picks Isco and leaves James on bench, just as Benítez did in August. Also leaves Danilo out, something Rafa should've done long ago.2016-1-9 18:36:52
The report goes on to claim Real's impending transfer ban won't stop United from making their move, and while several players will be untouchable once the ban hits, Rodriguez won't be unless he can improve his standing at the club.
It presents a sharp fall from grace for the 24-year-old, who was the star of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and impressed greatly during his first season in the Spanish capital. An untimely injury and struggles with form have held him back in 2015-16, leading to a lot of inconsistency from Rodriguez.
Per WhoScored.com, he has scored three goals and added four assists in La Liga, but all of those have come in the span of three matches.
The attacking midfielder remains one of the club's top talents, capable of doing some incredible things on the pitch. Here's a look at some of his highlights:
It sounds ludicrous to suggest Real would even consider selling a player like that, but Los Blancos have never been afraid to make changes. Di Maria was arguably their top performer in the 2013-14 campaign, and especially in the UEFA Champions League, but that didn't stop president Florentino Perez from shipping him off to Manchester.
For a United side desperate for an extra scoring threat and a creative force in the attacking third, Rodriguez would be a dream target. He's a young stud with the potential to be among the world's finest midfielders, and a big name that would surely excite the fanbase.
Rodriguez is a player the Red Devils could build a team around, and should he become available, the club should pounce. But it's still hard to believe Zidane would make the decision to sell him after just one match, and at the very least, the Colombian will have the opportunity to work himself into shape and convince his new manager of his abilities.
The impending transfer ban will only complicate matters, as Los Blancos will not be keen on selling players, knowing full well they won't be able to bring in replacements.
Race for Youri Tielemans Heating Up
Goal's Romeo Agresti reported Juventus have joined United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain in the race for Anderlecht midfielder Youri Tielemans, with the Bianconeri reportedly preparing an offer of £11.4 million plus bonuses.
Per the report, the Belgian side values the teenager closer to £22.8 million, a fee well beyond what Juventus are willing to pay.
Tielemans is the latest in a line of Belgian talents breaking out at a young age, although his case is a little extreme. He made his Champions League debut at the age of just 16 and more than held his own, drawing rave reviews from fans, pundits and opponents. Even then-Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp acknowledged his talent:
Here's a look at some of his highlights:
Already a Belgium international, Tielemans has continued his progression in Brussels, although his 2015-16 campaign has been far from perfect.
He was benched for several weeks, as fellow super-talent Leander Dendoncker outplayed him, something even he acknowledged after winning Belgium's Young Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year, per Het Laatste Nieuws (via Sp. Anderlecht news).
That doesn't mean he's having a bad season, however, via WhoScored.com:
Youri Tielemans: Has made more key passes (10) than any other teenager in the Europa League this season; Dele Alli second (8)2016-1-15 13:40:06
Still just 18 years old, Tielemans is expected to stay with Anderlecht for the foreseeable future and continue his development in a familiar environment. He's unlikely to play a big role for Belgium during UEFA Euro 2016, which will keep his transfer value down and make it harder to convince Anderlecht to sell.
Top clubs will continue to monitor the situation, however, and bids are expected during the summer. Tielemans is an exceptional talent, and once he does decide to move on to bigger things, football's elite will all battle it out to sign him.