Manchester United Transfer News: Neymar Battle with City, Top Red Devils Rumours

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2016

VALENCIA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 07:  Neymar JR of Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on February 07, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Barcelona star Neymar continues to be linked with a summer move to the Premier League, with the latest rumours claiming Manchester United and Manchester City will go head-to-head to land the prolific forward.

The Sun's Antony Kastrinakis reported Pep Guardiola will make the Brazilian his top priority once he takes over as City manager, while United already tried to bring Neymar to Old Trafford last summer.

The 24-year-old's Barcelona future is becoming increasingly uncertain due to the financial difficulties the club currently faces, and per Sky Sports' Guillem Balague, Neymar has kept the door to a move open:

Barcelona cannot afford to give new contracts to Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar as it stands - financially they do not have the power to do so. They need to bring a lot of money in, if they do that they will be able to keep them, but if they don't they may have to get rid of one. That's why Neymar keeps leaving the door open for United and others.

While most fans and pundits still expect Neymar to stay with the Catalans for the foreseeable future, the sense he could realistically leave the Blaugrana continues to grow. His father previously told Cadena Ser (h/t Sky Sports) his son could leave Spain if his legal issues persist:

We've begun contract renewal talks, but there are outstanding issues that concern us, and which need to be resolved.

[…] I don't want to use the word persecution, but if the working environment here is not good, we won't be able to remain in Spain and will have to leave the country.

Coupled with Barcelona's inability to hand the star forward an improved contract at this time, it's easy to see why both United and City believe they might be able to make a deal.

Neymar's buyout clause is a whopping £144 million, but given the Premier League's strong financial position, top clubs like the rivals from Manchester could realistically pay such an enormous fee for one of the top talents in world football.

The Brazil international has already scored 16 goals and added nine assists in La Liga this season, per

Here's a look at some of his top highlights:

It appears Neymar's first choice remains an extended stay with Barcelona, but if his legal issues persist and the Blaugrana can't offer him the kind of contract he desires, that could change. And as long as he doesn't sign a new deal, these kind of rumours will continue to pop up.


Aymeric Laporte Eyed

Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar (L) vies with Athletic Bilbao's French defender Aymeric Laporte (R) during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) quarter-finals second leg football match FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club de Bilbao at Camp Nou stadium in B
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

According to Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News, Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte is high on the list of targets United are eyeing for next season, along with Everton's John Stones and Real Madrid's Raphael Varane.

The 21-year-old signed a new deal with the Basque club last summer that raised his buyout clause to £32 million, but he continues to impress in La Liga and has developed into the kind of player who could be worth such a fee.

A move could prove tricky, however, as he recently told Telefoot (h/t Sport) he is fully committed to Bilbao. While he later softened claims he would turn down a move to Barcelona should the club come calling, he still emphasised his desire to stay with his current club, per AS (h/t Goal's Stefan Coerts).

Laporte, who is a natural fit at the centre-back position, is one of La Liga's top young defenders. Previously seen as a throwback-type defender, he has worked hard on his distribution and technique, and he now looks like a fantastic all-round talent. Here's a look at some of his highlights:

Per Dawson, United see Laporte as the ideal partner for Chris Smalling, and the club hopes improved wages and possible UEFA Champions League football could tempt the youngster into making the move.

The Red Devils previously discovered how difficult it is to negotiate with Athletic, however, after it took months to make a deal for midfielder Ander Herrera. With Laporte, United would likely have to pay the full buyout fee to have any chance of bringing the defender to Old Trafford.