Jose Mourinho has reportedly drawn up a shortlist of five defensive targets to pursue if he becomes the next Manchester United manager, while veteran midfielder Michael Carrick has admitted he doesn't know what his future will hold.
According to Catalan daily Sport (h/t Metro's Max Miller), Mourinho wants to inject some youth into the centre-back position at Old Trafford, and he is eyeing five players he would want to sign if he replaces current United manager Louis van Gaal.
The first has established himself as one of England's top defensive talents, while the rest have all been touted as top talents for years. Of the five, Bartra is the only one who doesn't regularly start for his current club.
Sport (h/t Goal.com) previously reported Laporte has already agreed to join Manchester City during the summer. Duncan Castles of the Sunday Times also links the young Frenchman with moves to Barcelona, PSG and United.
Varane and Marquinhos are two established centre-backs with incredible upside who have both been part of top European clubs for years. The latter has frequently played for PSG as a right-back, with compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva playing down the centre, and his agent, Giuliano Bertolucci, previously told Sport he will ask for a transfer if that doesn't change:
“He always wants to play, but he prefers to change his position. He's happy in Paris and in this team. He wants to stay, but if the situation doesn't change, he will ask in the summer, that's what he wants to do. He's 21 years old and he has to think of his sporting progress.”
Here's a look at some of his top highlights with PSG:
Varane was a favourite of Mourinho when the former Chelsea boss managed Real Madrid, but the Frenchman has become a regular starter for Los Blancos and is highly unlikely to be available during the summer.
The easiest player to capture would likely be Bartra, the Barcelona centre-back who has spent the bulk of the 2015-16 campaign stuck on the bench behind Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano. Blaugrana manager Luis Enrique has given the 25-year-old a handful of chances, but no more than veterans Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen.
Bartra was once regarded as one of the top young defenders in all of football, but a lack of consistent minutes halted his development, and he never took the next step. This season hasn't been any different, and fans aren't happy about it at all.
Blogger La Masia thinks he's primed to leave the club during the summer:
I guess it's fair to say that Bartra should move on next summer for the sake of his own career. https://t.co/IOzsWNeJou— La Masia (@Youngcules) February 21, 2016
Bartra would be a cost-effective option with upside, and he has shown enough talent to warrant what would likely be a relatively modest fee. Here's a look at some of his highlights:
Meanwhile, Carrick has admitted he's unsure whether he'll be plying his trade at Old Trafford next season, with his contract set to expire at the end of the current campaign.
When asked about his future, he told the Manchester Evening News' Simon Bajkowski:
I don't know, to be honest.
I don't expect to play every game - this week the run of games we've had to play would be a big ask for me.
I've probably played 25, 26, 27 games or something so far, so it's not bad.
I want to play every game because you're used to playing most games, but it's just how it is.
I'm just enjoying playing at the moment. How long is it going to last? When you get to this stage, you don't know, so I am just trying to enjoy it for what it is and see where that takes me.
Per Bajkowski, clubs from the Premier League, MLS and the Middle East have all been credited with interest in the 34-year-old, who has been with the club since 2006.
He's been heavily involved in the 2015-16 campaign, starting 15 matches in the Premier League, including a handful in defence, per WhoScored.com. His versatility has come in handy this season, but at his age, it's normal to fear a club may be looking in a different direction.
Per Simon Peach of the Press Association, he didn't seem too worried, however:
Michael Carrick, out-of-contract in the summer, was asked about his #MUFC future last night, but appeared pretty relaxed about it— Simon Peach (@SimonPeach) February 26, 2016
Carrick has proved his value in 2015-16, and as a central midfielder who relies more on vision and physicality than athleticism, there will be plenty of clubs willing to offer him a short-term deal, even if United decide not to.