Manchester United have identified three promising young centre-backs to target in the summer transfer window, according to reports.
United are in the market for a new defender this summer, with a partner for captain Harry Maguire one of their top priorities.
Maguire had been an ever-present for United in the Premier League this season before he was injured in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
The England international, who is now on the sidelines with an ankle injury, joined from Leicester City in August 2019 for a world-record fee of £80million for a defender.
He has established himself as a fixture in defence for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but while Victor Lindelof usually partners him, no player has really nailed down the role.
Although he recently signed a new contract, Eric Bailly has struggled with injuries over the past two years, while Axel Tuanzebe remains inexperienced at the top level.
United are therefore looking for a new centre-back in the summer transfer window, alongside a top-class forward, with Borussia Dortmund pair Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho linked with moves.
The club have previously been strongly linked with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, who is about to enter the final year of his contract with Los Blancos.
However, according to Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, United have three other names on their shortlist.
The report states that their number one choice is Jules Kounde, but Sevilla are currently demanding an ‘excessive’ fee of £55million (€65m) for the Frenchman.
The 22-year-old has made 86 appearances for Sevilla following a 2019 move from Bordeaux and played a key role as the club won the Europa League last season.
He is widely regarded as one of the most promising young defenders in Europe and has been a fixture of the gossip columns recently.
United are keen, but with Kounde under contract with the Spanish side until June 2024, he could prove too expensive.
If that is the case then the club could move onto other targets, namely Leicester City’s Wesley Fofana or Atalanta’s Cristian Romero.
Fofana has enjoyed an impressive campaign with Leicester following his move from St Etienne in October for a fee which could reach £36.5m.
Still only 20 years old, the French defender has made 35 appearances for the Foxes this season and already looks at ease in the Premier League.
Having only signed a five-year contract in October, he would not come cheap for United.
Romero, meanwhile, is an interesting case. Although the 23-year-old is officially a Juventus player, he has never appeared for the Old Lady and has spent the 2020/21 season on loan with Serie A rivals Atalanta.
Sky Sports have reported that Atalanta are expected to pay up to £21.5m (€25m) in their obligation to buy him permanently from Juve this summer after a brilliant season for the team.
However, Atalanta are reportedly willing to sell him on again for a fee at least in the region of £34m (€40m).