|Image from HITC.com|
“Congratulations to the scout that found a 21-year-old kid Diop, a monster who dominated in the duels.” said a certain Jose Mourinho after his United side slumped to a shock 3-1 defeat away to West Ham United early on in the 2018/19 season.
Whatever one might think of Jose Mourinho, his understanding of the game and his ability to identify a good defender is probably as good as, if not better than anyone else’s. A few eyebrows were raised when he claimed that achieving second place with this United squad in the 2017/18 season was probably his best achievement and as well as when he asked for a central defender in the transfer window after being the second-best defensive team in the league and keeping the most number of clean sheets. A sixth-place finish the following season and conceding 54 goals showed us once again that he was right. United are shambles at the back and only a freakishly good season from David de Gea was the reason for the amazing defensive performances in the 2017/18 season.
Now back in the Europa League and in need of another rebuild, every man and his dog is being linked to Manchester United and Issa Diop one of the many defenders on that list. The number of center-backs linked does show that the club is in dire need of one but has failed to acquire a number of their targets so far. This has not proved to be a good start to the window by any stretch of the imagination with Daniel James being the only signing United have made thus far.
Whether this deal does go through is under serious doubt taking into consideration West Ham United’s recent Twitter activity.
🎶 We’ve got Diop, Issa Diop, I just don’t think you understand… 🎶
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) June 19, 2019
However, if it does happen, what does he bring to the table? Should we be pursuing this deal or another?
I won’t lie and say I know a lot about Diop, because watching West Ham play isn’t something I’ll ever be very enthusiastic to do, but I’ll try to give some sort of insight into pros and cons of the deal.
Issa Diop moved from Toulouse to West Ham United last year for a fee of £22m, he played 38 games in all competition for the Hammers scoring 2 goals as well. He was a mainstay in the Hammers’ backline and had an impressive 86% passing accuracy over the season. Standing at 6’4″ he also won 2.3 aerial duels on average per game. These are impressive numbers as a defender who can pass well from the back with ease and win most of the balls in the air is someone who will definitely improve our backline. (stats courtesy of WhoScored)
He also brings Premier League experience having had a full season at an upper mid-table team and playing 33 games in the league shows that he was able to manage his fitness well. A step up to Man Utd will be a big task for him but he does possess the potential to do that. Of course, it’s not like he would have to do that much to improve United in that department anyway.
West Ham reportedly want £60m for his services and poses the serious question of whether United can do better with that much money. I personally feel we can, Diop while being very good so far, certainly isn’t worth that much, this is a crazy fee West Ham have demanded in an aim to fend off interest and/or make a serious profit. An alternate signing would be Matthijs De Ligt as Ajax would demand a similar fee and although his wage demands would be higher he is definitely a better option. Harry Maguire is also available at a slightly higher price or even add another £20m and we can go for Kalidou Koulibaly.
The best option for me is to pay the £60m release clause and get in Ruben Dias from Benfica and pay £25m for Toby Alderweireld and spend £85m to really strengthen our defence with a young centre back for the next ten or more years and an experienced and excellent defender as a short term solution.
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Looking at how the transfer window has panned out so far no one can be sure what the club will do or more importantly what the club will fail to do. We certainly won’t be signing the 60+ players we’ve been linked with. I personally cannot see us signing Diop but we do need a centre back and you would hope that the club should be able to get something over the line come the start of the season. Who we actually sign remains to be revealed but there’s tremendous uncertainty around the club and we can only hope it subsides by the time pre-season preparation start in the next ten days or so.